How to shake hands


I recently attended an event where I was asked to be a guest speaker. Most events I attend there are plenty of people I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting before, and so there are plenty of introductions and handshakes. I find it amazing how many men still does not understand the importance of a handshake; it is your chance to cement the first impression.

Types of handshake

There are so many different ways of shaking hands that I find it easier to group them into these distinct groups. See if you recognise these in people you know, or more importantly yourself.

    • Wet fish – The one handshake most dreaded and far too prevalent. The wet fish usually comes with a limp wrist and a pathetic grip. Nothing is more guaranteed to ruin your reputation than a weak handshake


    • Clammy hands – No matter how good your handshake is, if you suffer from clammy hands, it will leave the wrong impression. Worse still, is if you have a poor handshake AND have clammy hands. There is nothing worse than a clam-fish handshake!


    • Bland – Not ideal and easily forgotten, but at least you won’t be remembered for the wrong reasons. The first impression can be rescued by being strong in other areas


    • Confident – Handshake perfection – firm grip and wrist, three shakes, good eye contact and a smile


    • Eager Beaver – If you are nervous it can make your handshake quite ‘grabby’ where instead of meeting palms, you close your grip too quickly and grab the fingers of the person you are greeting.


  • Bone cruncher – For those who either are not aware of their own strength, are trying too hard or have invested too much of their ego in their handshake. Contrary to what you may believe, a bone crunching handshake will not make the recipient believe you are all powerful.


It is very difficult to gauge how effective your handshake is unless people tell you. As difficult as this may be, you do need to get feedback to truly asses your handshake. Ask those whose opinion you value and that will give you honest feedback. I would recommend asking your friends and family before work colleagues. Hopefully you will have the perfect handshake, but if you do need to improve, use my tips below for developing the perfect handshake.

No more wet fish

If you are told your handshake is weak, do not get disheartened; be thankful you now know so you can do something about it. Most of us have heard the saying “It’s all in the wrist” and the same is true of your handshake. You do not need to build muscular fingers to improve your grip; you need to learn to keep a firm wrist. If you pick up a bottle of wine by the neck, you must have a firm wrist, it’s this level of tension you should have in your wrist when you shake hands.

How to overcome clammy hands

If you do suffer from clammy hands, do not worry, here are my top tips for dealing with excess moisture.

For mildly clammy hands – discreetly put your hand in your trouser pocket and wipe your palm on the lining of the pocket just before the introduction – it is not ideal, but can get you out a potentially awkward situation, just remember to send your trousers to the dry cleaners after the event. With practice this method can be completely discrete and will go unnoticed by anyone.

For excessively clammy hands – you will need to use a handkerchief to wipe your hands and so the skill will be in making it look like you are doing something else. If you wear glasses you have a perfect excuse as you can make it look like you are cleaning the lenses (I do not recommend actually cleaning the lenses as you will want to use a special cloth for that). If you do not wear glasses, using your handkerchief to wipe over your watch face will work just as well. Then as you put your handkerchief away, briefly but discreetly dry your hands.

If you have just shook hands with someone with clammy hands, NEVER visibly wipe your hands on your trousers, use the methods above and be discreet.

The bone cruncher

This is the hardest to overcome. So many men believe that the strongest handshake denotes the most powerful man in some kind of display and machismo, and they invest so much of their ego that it is difficult to unlearn. Put yourself in the shoes of others and understand how it must feel to be the recipient of such a demonstration of brute force.

So how hard should you squeeze a hand in a handshake? Remember you want to make a good impression without deforming someone’s hand. Bear that in mind with this simple exercise. Buy a 100 – 200g plastic bottle filled with talc or baby powder. Practice your grip by firmly squeezing the bottle. You want to make a firm impression without deforming the plastic. If the bottle buckles, you are squeezing too hard and the handshake (if real) would be uncomfortable for others. Forget any advice about handshakes & breaking eggs! Have you tried to break an egg in one hand? It needs a lot of force – far too much for a handshake, even if you wind it back by 10%!!

The perfect handshake

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Smile
  • Extend a dry hand
  • Meet palm to palm, don’t grab their fingers
  • Don’t bring your ego
  • Use a firm wrist
  • Shake from the elbow, not your whole arm
  • Maintain constant pressure, don’t pump your hands
  • Three shakes and your done, no uncomfortable lingering
  • One hand is enough, no too handed shakes or hands on shoulders

Shaking the hand of a lady

There is nothing here – nada – zip! No special treatment for women. You will not get any thanks or respect from a lady by offering her a soft handshake.

Practice makes perfect

The last point is the more you shake hands, the better you will get. Like anything in life, practice makes perfect, so get out there and have fun meeting new people. Just remember – you only get one chance to make a first impression. Your handshake is a vital part of that.

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  1. Personally, as I’ve had Autoimmune Arthritis since the age of 5, the prospect of several people all shaking my hand firmly in a day fills me with dread, especially men who are either trying to be dominant or have no concept of their own strength.

    Press your palm to the other party’s palm, don’t apply any squeezing pressure – I don’t want to carry a placard stating ‘no handshakes’, but seriously, I’m sick of the daily compulsory exercise in pain tolerance just to make others feel more manly.

  2. Strictly speaking, before attempting to shake the hand of a lady, one should wait for the lady to offer her hand; for the shaking thereof.

  3. An interesting article, as usual.

    What I would like to add to this list is “the twister”. Now, many body language experts have liked to tell businessmen that the angle with which you shake hands determines the dominant party. The idea goes that person whose hand is on top in the shake is dominant and that to convey a sense of power and superiority, you need to twist your hand about 45 degrees.

    Now, this is all well and good, but it is a fairly well-known idea. This has led to a large number of people twisting your hand when they shake it to show they are dominant or just extending their hand at 45 degrees when it comes to the shake. This may work for some people as a way of showing superiority, however, to me it comes over as the equivalent of a greeting and being flipped the bird.

    A handshake is essentially a way of showing people that you are meeting them on even terms, with no agenda, aggression or defensiveness. When you shake with the twist, like the bone crusher, you are sending out a very different message.

    There are other types of shake, too, such as the double-hander and the elbow-grab, but these should be reserved for close friends and politicians.

    The best shake is firm and dry, has plenty of eye contact and tells the person you are shaking hands with that you are confident but open and treating them as an equal.


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