Handshakes are not a modern invention. Tribes of ancient times used them. The Romans used them. The Greeks used them. And yes, we use them today.
Simply put: the handshake has been there for as long as the human race remembers.
Since this gesture is not going away any time soon, we need to make sure that you understand the various nuances of this hand-pumping gesture. Back in the day, the Romans clasped the forearm whenever they wanted to greet someone.
There was a practical use for this somewhat odd gesture: people routinely checked if the other person was hiding a dagger or blade on his forearm. A single strong shake can help a person determine whether or not the other person is armed or not.
When the aristocracy rose and trade was booming, the handshake was transformed into a gesture that sealed business transactions. People shook hands when an agreement has been reached and goods/money was about to be traded between two or more people.
Some handshakes are worse than others. In fact there are handshakes that never contribute to a person’s credibility. First impressions last, and these handshakes create a lasting negative impression on people so avoid them at all cost.
Here they are:
The Clammy Handshake (10% Credibility) AKA The “Dead Fish”
The limp, clammy handshake never impresses.
No one likes the idea of shaking hands with a person who seems to have just finished washing the dishes. Sweat is a big turn off in the world of social graces and the handshake is too essential to be ruined by sweat.
A sweaty palm does not only appear unhygienic but it also signals something much worse: that the person with the clammy handshake has weak character. If you want to exude confidence, your handshake has to communicate that as well.
Important Note: the Clammy Handshake is considered disagreeable in most Western countries like the USA, Canada, etc. However, in some countries in Asia, a firm grip during a handshake is generally avoided because it can actually offend people.
The best strategy when you are in a foreign country is to simply match the grip strength of the other person. Also, carry a handkerchief that you can use to wipe away sweat from your palms when you know full well that you are going to shake hands with important people.
The Tight Handshake (40% Credibility)
A little too tight?
The tight handshake is usually done by two types of people: power players and people with low self-confidence. People with low self-confidence usually shake hands in this manner because they are often afraid that the other person might become too dominant.
The tight handshake is performed in this manner:
The initiator offers a palm-down hand
He takes the other hand and makes a downward pump once
Three strong pumps are given before the initiator lets go of the other hand
The Wrench Handshake (0% Credibility)
Interested in shaking hands with a wrench? Me neither. And neither are other people.
Handshakes are meant to transmit confidence and credibility – not pain. People who routinely use the Wrench Handshake should not be surprised that their handshake can actually draw blood if the other person has a ring on.
The Wrench Handshake is the choice weapon of the blindly aggressive individual who wants nothing more than to appear ‘on top’ of things wherever he is.
Unfortunately, this kind of handshake only causes shock and people who have had the misfortune of having to endure this type of handshake will only have a negative impression of the initiator.
People who like the Wrench Handshake will usually grab the other person’s hand without warning and grip it so tightly during the hand pump movement that the other person will have no chance at all to control the handshake.
If you’re a woman and you are about to meet a lot of businessmen, I suggest that you take off any ring that you might have on before shaking hands. You never know when an errant bone-crusher might come along to ruin your day with a senseless and awful handshake.
Since it would be quite difficult to control a sudden Wrench Handshake from someone you barely (or don’t) know, the one thing that you can do to is to respond to the bone-crushing grip with a statement like “That actually hurt. You have some grip.”
Statements like these are not meant to be offensive but are designed to catch the attention of the errant hand-shaker. Your statement will serve as a warning so he will not repeat the awful handshake.
The Finger-Grab Handshake (20% Credibility)
The finger-grab handshake usually happens when a man is introduced to a woman or vice versa. What happens is either one of the two parties involved makes a miscalculation when the handshake is imitated. When the miscalculation takes place, one party commits the error of grabbing the other party’s fingertips instead of the palm/whole hand.
A limp and weird handshake results from all the finger-grabbing that takes place. Why does this handshake occur? Apart from the miscalculation of the distance, there are two other possible reasons why this type of handshake takes place:
The initiator of the handshake has low self-confidence
The initiator has a much bigger personal space allowance than the recipient
If Person A has a personal space allowance of just two feet while Person B has a personal space allowance of three feet, the two hands will fail to connect properly.
If this happens to you, here’s what you can do:
1.) Step closer to the other person.
2.) Gently hold the outstretched hand with your opposite hand and place it on your ‘shaking’ hand.
3.) Say “Let’s try this again!”. Make sure that you do it with a positive tone of voice and a quick smile.
4.) Pump the other person’s hand.
This act shows the other person that he is equally important as you and you are equals. There is no need for any power play at all if you receive this kind of handshake.
To create a lasting positive impression on the other person you have to show him/her that you consider him/her as an equal and not a subordinate
The Push-Back Handshake (30% Credibility)
The Push-Back Handshake can be commonly seen when politicians and world leaders appear on television and they want to appear that they are happy to see each other (even if in reality, they really don’t). The Push-Back Handshake is a poor handshake because there is unnecessary movement and force involved.
Whenever there is unnecessary force involved, the credibility projected by a handshake is reduced significantly because the balance of power between the two parties involved is disturbed.
The Push-Back Handshake is performed this way:
One party holds out his hand to be shaken.
The errant shaker grabs the hand firmly and pushes back.
The outstretch forearm is pushed back and the elbow bends.
The errant shaker’s arm remains straight during the hand pump movement.
Why do people do this? The most common reason is some people need more personal space than others. When the Push-Back Handshake is performed, the errant shaker is telling the other person to back off, because he feels that his personal space is being invaded.
The Pull-In Handshake (30% Credibility)
The direct opposite of the Push-Back Handshake is the Pull-In Handshake. The Pull-In Handshake is more popular than the Push-Back Handshake because it produces a more intimidating (and therefore more sinister) effect.
When a person gets pulled in by another person during a handshake they are taken away from their comfort zone/personal space and they are forced into the private territory of the power player. Once this happens, the other person is symbolically dominated by the power player.
Here are some other reasons why some people choose to use the Pull-In Handshake:
The person performing the Pull-In Handshake has self-confidence issues and does not feel comfortable reaching out to another person during a handshake.
The person comes from a local or foreign culture that requires a very small personal space during handshakes.
The person likes it when the other person seems off-balance. This is another way of dominating another person during handshakes.
The Overzealous Handshake (40% Credibility)
Anything, if done in excess, can cause malaise. The same holds true for handshakes. The Overzealous Handshake reduces a person’s projected credibility because it forces longer physical contact than necessary.
When a person performs the Overzealous Handshake, he continuously pumps the other person’s hand (there may even be a rhythm in the pumping motion) as if he was trying to draw out water from a manual water pump.
Sometimes an overzealous shaker will cease from continuously (and rhythmically) pumping the other person’s hand; however, he may choose to hold the other person’s hand after the handshake. Again, this prolonged contact is bad because it weakens the other party’s motivation to pull away from the strange handshake.
The Bunch of Carrots (20% Credibility)
As you can imagine, the Bunch of Carrots handshake is a bit like being handed some dried and heavy vegetables. The shaker’s hands may not be sweaty or clammy, but the hand is sluggish during the handshake and the other person’s will seem lazy or uninterested during the handshake as well.
SPECIAL: The Clash of the Titans Handshake
Pardon the somewhat dramatic title for this handshake, but it really does seem that two titans are actually fighting when this handshake combination is carried out.
The Clash of the Titans handshake is performed when one person uses a Pull-In Handshake while the other person resists the movement by performing a Push-Back Handshake.
Both parties will not move from their own personal spaces and each will try to outdo each other. What results is a somewhat strained position for both people.
The person on the left would most likely be using a pushing motion while the other one will be using a pulling motion to force the person on the left out of his comfort zone. If you see this kind of handshake, it is possible that there is some degree of animosity between the two individuals performing this very aggressive handshake.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Reading body language is a double edged sword. It’s easy and accurate because we communicate through body language most of time. It’s natural and very difficult to fake. The caveat id that it can become difficult or inaccurate if you read signs the wrong way.
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