Thursday, March 27, 2008

How to Shake Hands

One of the things that really pisses me off is when I shake someone's hand and they are looking at or talking to someone else. Of course I am in sales and consider a handshake critical to my work, but everyone should know how to do it. So here it is step by step:

1. Extend your hand.

2. Look the other person straight in the eye. You give them your complete and total attention (it simply amazes me the number of people who don't do this).

3. Smile. And I don't mean an idiotic used-car-sales grin, but a pleasant, welcoming continence. Even in a nasty negotiation there is no reason to frown or grimace.

4. Grasp the other person's hand. Firm, but not too tight. A weak handshake can be translated as a weak person. And an iron grip is showing off. If you have one of those "missed grasps" when your hands don't come together just right (about 1 in 50 for me), just ignore it and continue with the greeting. It happens.

5. State your name clearly and distinctly, with a very small pause between your first and last names. There is no need to rush. The pause helps people who are not native English speakers separate your first and last name, or it helps those who are English speakers deal with non-native names.

6. The other person will usually state their name in return. Pay attention and try to remember it. Associating the name with someone I already know works for me (So this guy is "Mark", like my cousin Mark)

7. Pump the person's hand a few times. In the U.S. a few shakes is considered the norm. Asian cultures - when they shake hands - might hold on for a few more shakes.

8. Release

Special Situations:
  • Business Cards - A whole separate blog entry one day. Essential when you are meeting a dozen people at once (common in sales presentations)
  • Japan - A combination "shake-and-bow" is used a lot in Japan with Western visitors. The bow is about half the depth of a normal bow.
  • Korea - the left hand is (or was) considered unclean. So when shaking hands (and when passing or receiving an item ) the left arm is kept bent and flat against your stomach.
  • The Double Grip - Used only when you are meeting someone you already know and are genuinely happy to see. When meeting for the first time this is in the same category as the used-car-sales grin.
  • The Left Arm on the Shoulder - I never use it when initially greeting, but I do use it when exiting a first meeting I think went especially well. Like the double grip I also use it for people I am truly happy to see, but not close enough to hug (American males are hugging more and more it seems)
  • Women - Many women, especially from the South, are taught that they have to offer their hand first, so a man is considered "forward" when sticking his hand out first. This is sort of an instinctive thing you have to call by ear. Also, women generally grip weaker than men, so I typically use a less firm grip.

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