Tuesday, 19 September 2017
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A gentleman’s guide to conducting the perfect handshake


Follow this essential guide and make your first impression count

US President Calvin Coolidge and Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson shake hands, presenting the "American League diploma" for the Senators winning the AL in 1924.
US President Calvin Coolidge and Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson shake hands, 1924 / National Photo Company Collection
The Gentleman

Firm. This should be the first word that spring to mind. No one likes to shake a hand that takes the form of a wet fish, especially one that folds at the knuckle and flops about. Thus, we give you the gentleman’s guide to nailing the handshake correctly and with confidence:

Your grip is key

Your handshake is probably the first thing that you’re going to be judged on. Forget your shoes, forget your haircut – if your handshake is limp, you’re making the wrong impression with the right people. Be firm, but not over the top and avoid all fish formations and a flimsy wrist at all costs.

Keep the right distance

Find a comfortable medium just over an arm width away from your partner. Do not invade personal space by leaning too far forward. Do not attempt to ‘possess’ your partner by pulling him into you. Keep calm, relax your grip and do not come across too strong.

Establish – and maintain – eye contact

As you extend your arm, establish eye contact. Continue to do so right through to the end of the handshake. Looking away and not catching the eye of the person you’re introducing yourself to is rude, condescending and arrogant.

Hold the aggressive shaking

Never actually shake more than 3 times. Despite what the name suggests, shaking is optional and a simple squeeze for a few seconds is perfectly sufficient. The two-handed shake (where your remaining hand covers your partners) is best avoided in most cases: too American, too eager.

On a side note, shake, squeeze or both – whatever you choose, ensure your hand remains firm. Floppy fingers must be avoided at all costs.

Remember to smile

Squeezing without smiling can come across as threatening, or, worse, try-hard and insecure. Make every effort to avoid this impression. If you’re not one to bare your teeth, do what you can to make the experience a positive one. Introducing yourself and following up with something charming should do the trick. “How do you do?” works just fine.

Stand up

If you’re sitting down and others enter the room, before even thinking about offering your hand, for God’s sake, stand up. Staying seated is lazy, it’s arrogant and it’s not going to do you any favours of any kind.

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