We make impressions on the people we meet in the first three seconds. What does that usually cover? Introductions and handshakes. In the first three seconds you have the opportunity to make a good first impression or a bad one.
If someone taught you how to shake hands well, congratulations. Most of us just started doing it unconsciously and continue doing it well or badly. There has been a lot written on the importance of touch, the rituals of meeting, the anthropology of handshakes. Here are the Cliff Notes.
So, what makes a good first three seconds? Here are the eight parts.
- Look someone in the eye.
Here are the two common mistakes:
- Limp grip. Ever shake hands with someone who gives you two or three limp fingers? Very unsatisfying.
- Vertical instead of horizontal hands. Men sometimes do this when they shake women’s hands. They hold the hand like they are going to kiss it. The woman should make the first move and put her hand out with the thumb straight up. That sends the message nonverbally, “I am not afraid and I’m coming in for a good handshake.”
There are many variations of handshakes and it is fun to watch for them.
- The double handshake: one person puts the other in a hand sandwich. The effect is warm and sincere and the reason is you can get more palm contact that way. Sometimes both people make hand sandwiches—showing even more sincerity.
- Holding the hand after the shake. Usually this feels very intimate or like special meaning is intended.
- Looking down during the handshake: this communicates lack of confidence or you don’t want to meet them.
- Looking around during the handshake: this communicates arrogance. You are too busy and are looking for a more important person to meet.
- Variations on the power lock: one person puts the non-shaking hand on the forearm, upper arm or shoulder. This can feel warm and friendly and it can feel like they are jockeying for power. In general, powerful people touch less powerful people much less than the reverse and it can feel like the power locker is pushing you around. Lyndon Johnson was said to be a master at this.
Still think handshakes are minor details? It could mean the difference between getting the job or not—and may say a lot about your personality.
So, what handshake variations have you observed? Did anyone ever teach you how to shake hands or was it do-it-yourself?