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What Your Handshake Says About You

It's not just common sense. The research shows that the handshake matters. It does in fact contribute to "first impressions." Your handshake actually reflects certain personality characteristics. Research shows that when it comes to self-promotion, handshake etiquette is important.

Everyone knows, from personal experience, that we make judgments about people based on how they shake hands. It's one thing to say "Hi" or "good morning" to someone you pass on the street. It is something entirely different to engage someone at the level of touching hands and making physical contact. It could be at the start of a contest or negotiation, or in advance of an important interview. Handshakes are an important introductory ritual in all manner of social contacts, and the research shows that the quality of the handshake makes a real difference.

What does your handshake say about you? Does it proclaim to the world that’s you’re confident and assertive? Or, does it tell everyone you’re shy and insecure? The good news is, if you don’t like what your handshake says about you, you can change it.

1. Be Prepared
First things first: In any environment where you’re meeting people, make sure your right hand is free. You don’t want to have to fumble at the last moment. You should definitely avoid holding a drink in your right hand, especially if it’s cold, as the condensation can make your hand feel clammy.

2. Consider Your Body Language
Next, remember that a handshake isn’t just about a single action; there’s a lot more that goes into it. If you’re seated, always rise before shaking someone’s hand. If you’re standing, keep your hands out of your pockets. Visible hands make you look more open and honest.
Finally, keep your head straight, without tilting it in any way, and face the person fully. Make sure to use plenty of eye contact, and smile warmly, but briefly.

3. Get in Position
When you’re reaching out your hand to shake, keep it perfectly perpendicular. When in doubt, angle your thumb straight up to the ceiling. Open wide the space between your thumb and index finger, which will ensure you get optimal thumb-web contact (which makes for the ideal handshake).

4. Make Contact
To ensure the right level of contact between your hand and your partner’s, keep your palm flat when you reach out to shake. Try to wrap your fingers around your partner’s hand, scaling them one by one, as if you were giving a hug with your hand.

5. Shake
Once full contact is made, lock your thumb down and squeeze firmly, about as much as your partner does. Shake from your elbow (not your wrist). You can linger for a moment if you want to convey particular warmth, then release and step back.

6. Practice Often
Try practicing with friends or family; people who will give you feedback before a job interview or networking event. This type of practice is what will truly make perfect, and make an amazing difference when you’re meeting new people.

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