(The following excerpt from The Art Of Handshaking: We Do It Often Enough – Let’s Do It Correctly” by Joe Navarro, M.A., was originally posted on July 13, 2013, on psychology.com. To view it in its entirety please click on the link below.)
At the forty or so seminars I give yearly, I always ask the same question. “Who here has ever received a bad handshake?” Invariably everyone raises their hands – no surprise there. Perhaps you’ve wondered, as I have, “How can so many people get something so simple as a handshake wrong?” Somewhere along the line each culture developed different greetings to communicate how we feel about others – from facial rubbing, to kissing, to hugging, to arm clasping, to the handshaking in its many forms that is familiar to us today.
So the question is how do we get it right and what should we avoid? First we have to keep in mind that handshakes are cultural. If you go to Turkey or the Middle East handshakes may be very gentle – that is a good handshake to them. In Utah you are going to get what is called a Mormon handshake: enthusiastic, vigorous, and prolonged. If you go to Bogota, a handshake may be replaced with an abrazo, especially if you are well liked. The secret to handshaking is to mirror the culture you are in – when in Rome you do as the Romans and you just accept it.
Not tricky or hard to do, yet some manage to screw it up so lets go over some things you must not do when shaking hands:
Eye Contact: Make sure you are making eye contact with the person with whom you are shaking hands and avoid distractions.
Wet Hands: About 2.8% of the population suffers from hyperhidrosis – wet hands, excessive sweating. Before you shake hands make sure you dry them first.
Dominant Handshaking: Sometime in the 1980s someone wrote that to establish dominance in a relationship your hand had to be the one on top when shaking hands. The clinical term for this is: crap. Twisting the other person’s hand so that yours is superior or playing hand jujitsu to let the other person know you are in charge is just rubbish.
Probing Handshake: All the time I hear about or I receive the probing handshake. The probing handshake is where the other person probes you with their index finger pressed against the inside of your wrist. It leaves the most negative of feelings.
Conclusion: Shaking hands is a simple act that you can get wrong. Follow the social norms of the culture you are visiting and don’t try to be dominant with the handshake. You are being assessed when you touch another hand, doing it properly says a lot about you and how you will be remembered. You are not there to score points you are there to make the other person feel comfortable, to establish psychological comfort.
(Joe Navarro, M.A., is a 25 year veteran of the FBI and is the author of What Every Body Is Saying, as well as Louder Than Words. For additional information and a free bibliography please contact him through www.jnforensics.com or follow on twitter: @navarrotells or onFacebook. You can follow Joe here in Psychology Today. Copyright © 2013, Joe Navarro.)