‘Dead Fish’ or ‘Bone Crusher’ – What Does Your Handshake Say About You?

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7 July 2017
Written by Steve Bavister Linked-in icon

Everybody’s talking about Donald Trump’s handshake. Because it’s often the only time in business we touch another person, the handshake is a crucial element in making a positive impression. Here are 10 practical tips for the perfect handshake.


 People shaking hands


1. Initiate – don’t react 

Sometimes there can be a moment of awkwardness when meeting someone for the first time. Be the first to put your hand out. You’ll come across as confident and energetic.

2. Get the pressure right

If your handshake is weak, others will think you’re weak – the ‘Dead Fish’. But you don’t want to be a ‘Bone Crusher’,  or others will find you aggressive. Ask friends and colleagues for some feedback on your handshake, and aim for it to be firm but not too strong.

3. Avoid sweaty palms 

No-one likes a clammy handshake. But sometimes we get nervous and sweating is an involuntary response. Have a tissue or handkerchief you can use to keep your palms fresh.

4. Get the distance right

Don’t get too close to the other person – or stand too far away. Go too close and you invade their personal space. Too far away and you can seem distant and aloof.

5. Go web to web

Make sure you really connect when shaking hands. That means going ‘web-to-web’ – the ‘web’ being the area between the thumb and index finger. Ensure your hand and theirs really lock together.

6. Shake don’t squeeze

It’s a hand ‘shake’ not a hand ‘squeeze’ , so your movement should be up and down, not an increase in pressure.

7. Pump it real good

How many pumps up and down? Ideally two to three. Just one can seem transactional. Too many can seem excessive.

8. Hold it

Don’t pull away too soon. Holding the contact a fraction of a second longer than you normally would gives a greater sense of connection. Once again, though, don’t hold it for too long or you will create a negative impression.

9. Go straight for it

The perfect handshake comes from the side of the body to the front of the body via the shortest distance – aiming for a point just about the other person’s belly button. Don’t be a ‘gunslinger’ and take it round in an arc.

10. Don’t do ‘the politician’

Some people touch the other person’s elbow with their other hand. This ‘politician’s’ handshake is something you should avoid when meeting someone for the first time, because many people react badly to it.

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