The handshake, a seemingly simple gesture is often done poorly and taken for granted. The handshake serves as many things. It can be a first time introduction that leaves a lasting impression. It can be a greeting between lifelong friends. It can be extended in comfort in times of sorrow. It can seal a deal at a company or on global policy. It can also show respect to both elders and to the fairer sex.


It's not entirely know how the handshake evolved. Speculation is that knights and warriors would extend hands and clasp forearms to show that they beared no concealed weapons. This may have involved into the modern handshake.

The 3 Essentials of a Proper Handshake

1. Stand up straight! If you are sitting down, then show some respect and stand up to shake a persons hand. It shows them that they are important to you.

2. Look the other person in the eyes. Eye contact is an integral pert of conveying the message of the handshake, whether it be one of respect, warmth, trust, or even one that says "Don't tread on me." Your eyes will reveal your feelings. They are the window to your soul.

3. Firmly shake their hand. Never put a "dead fish" out there for someone to shake nor should you try to squeeze as hard as you can. Putting out a floppy hand ( a "dead fish") shows several things including lack of respect for the person on the receiving end, as well as weakness on your part. I've never been able to respect a man that has the ability to offer a firm handshake but doesn't.

Alternate Situations and Additions

Shaking a ladies hand - In business situations it is considered respectful to follow the guidelines above. In a social situation, I find it appropriate to turn their hand up to a 45 degree angle, almost as if you were going to kiss their hand as in days of old, but not quite. This show's that you respect them but that you also respect their femininity.

To put someone at ease or to make them feel comfortable, you may place your other hand briefly on their shoulder while shaking their hand. If you are shaking hands with an old friend or want to convey how truly good it is to see someone again you may opt for clasping with both hands.

In conclusion

Please pass this on. If you are already a master of the handshake, teach someone that needs to learn. You will be helping them tremendously in life. I had breakfast with an old family friend and college professor of mine the other day and he recalled the time that my grandfather had taken the time to teach him the art of the proper handshake. That was over 50 years ago and he still considers it one of the most important lessons he ever learned in life.

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Comment by Dylan Pine on November 10, 2009 at 11:45am
Great article - it really does make a difference. Especially here in the South. Thanks for the welcome as well!

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