The Art of the Handshake: How to Master It


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Every man must master the art of the handshake, whether it be for greeting people, making a business deal, or introducing oneself. The elements of a good handshake include a swift elegant movement toward another person’s hand-in-waiting, the smart use of eye contact, the strength of your grip, and finally the rhythm of the handshake — not to mention the added bonus of speaking during the shake or after. This simple gesture speaks volumes about who you are. Esquire’s Tom Chiarella pinpoints what a good handshake says about the man doing the shaking:

Truth be told, a man who has a good handshake can do any goddamned thing he wants. I’m not saying he will; I’m saying he can. He can work a room — one person to the next, shaking with strangers, with old colleagues, with huge men and tiny women alike — with his hand. People remember him; they listen to him. Men like this are followed.

It takes time to perfect a good handshake. In this article, we examine how you can shake with confidence as well as how to avoid and deal with the awkward handshake. After reading this, you’ll never doubt your handshaking abilities again.

Components of the handshake

It’s necessary to have a hearty handshake, and it is indeed a myth that bigger and stronger people have hardier or heavier handshakes. A handshake has nothing to do with the size of the person. Rather, it’s a controlled action that expresses confidence and firm contact, no matter the size of the man. You want your handshake to be firm, but not too firm. To shake someone’s hand properly, your body has be aligned correctly. Only bend at your elbow, and make sure not to put your shoulder into an overly aggressive stance. Grip the person’s hand, palm on palm, and lay your fingers out naturally. Next, give it about two shakes, moving only your forearm up and down in a smooth yet methodical move. Then, release your hand.

What to keep in mind when shaking hands

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  • Always keep a dry hand: If your palms are sweaty, make sure you dry them off before you go in for the shake. Stick your hand in your pocket if you need to.
  • Eye contact: Eye contact is essential in any handshake, and be sure to never look down. Rather, look straight at the person’s face. When you look them in the eye while you’re shaking, you’ll be much more informal and connected to the person whose hand you’re shaking.
  • Make sure to smile: Smiling makes you come off in a positive manner, and it’s the icing on the cake of every handshake.
  • Don’t overdo it: Don’t make the handshake too long. Two or three shakes tops is fine because anything more than that can be awkward.

When and where to shake hands

A big component to the handshake is timing. Many people avoid extending their hands out for fear of being left hanging. Even if you’re unsure if someone will notice your offer, extend the handshake anyway. It’s important to be aware that different cultures have different social customs, so don’t be offended if it’s not reciprocated. Just make sure to not offer your hand if the other person is engrossed in a conversation with someone else. Lastly, handshakes are good anywhere and everywhere; they’re great at social gatherings, when arriving and leaving, and if you’re meeting someone for the first time.

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