How NOT to Shake Someone’s Hand

Have you ever had a bad impression of someone after shaking someone’s hand? I have.

Maybe it’s the “dead fish” where they don’t grab my hand when I grab theirs. (Why do relaxed hands feel so gross?)

Or, the “I’ve-learned-at-my-leadership-course-that-you-should-have-a-firm-handshake”- death squeeze.

Then there are the ones who just never let go.

Well, I’m apparently not the only one who has to deal with weird handshakes:

obama handshake

Then there are the messed up fist bumps:

fistbump fail

Sometimes there’s just no saving you, like when this reporter tries to high five a blind guy:

blind high five

To be honest I think there’s something to be learned here: Even successful people mess up from time to time and that’s OK.

It’s funny that we’re so afraid of messing up on this when it makes us more human and likable. You don’t want to be afraid of messing up a handshake.

Some try to protect themselves from awkwardness so much that they become stiff and reserved instead. But that’s what makes us less likable.

When we think “don’t mess up!” that makes us stiff instead of relaxed.

My advice is to accept being awkward every once in awhile and see the fun in it. When you feel like you have less to lose, you become more at ease. That’s how you start a positive spiral in your behavior.

Read my guide about how to avoid nervosity here.

And to finish it off here’s my favorite shake – “The Bait and Switch”:

bait and switch handshake

But while we’re on the subject, what‘s good handshake etiquette anyway?

  • The skin between the thumb and index finger should touch the same spot on the other hand. (Don’t be a finger grabber.)
  • Dry hands
  • Solid, but not too tight (tight enough to feel solid, but it should never hurt) – you usually adapt this depending on the size and strength of the other person
  • Brief – anything from half a second to a couple of seconds depending on the situation. Holding too long starts to get weird pretty quickly.

Here’s a guide that covers all aspects of socializing.

I would love to hear about your worst handshake or high five in the comments below! I think most of us have more than a few stories on this topic. 🙂

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David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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