The handshake. That age old custom, the one that says hello or perhaps seals the deal. Regardless of how you feel about doing it or what you do it for, did you know a handshake says a lot about your personality?
A 2000 University of Alabama study actually found that a person’s handshake is consistent over time and related to aspects of their overall personality. For example, those with a firm handshake tend to be more extroverted and open to experience, those with a limp handshake were found to be more shy and slightly more neurotic overall.
So what kind of handshake do you have? The good news is it’s something you can improve if you feel you are not giving off the right signals.
Let’s look at a couple of famous examples to get a feel for what we are talking about.
Examining different famous handshakes
We certainly have seen our fair share of U.S. President Donald Trump lately. Have you noticed his handshake? When he is with world leaders and Vice-President Mike Pence, he seems to yank their arms and then pump. His handshake actually seems to confirm many of the things people say about him: that he’s controlling, somewhat insecure and tries to maintain his importance. Check him out in action below…
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on the other hand has a completely different style. Here he is with a handshake called the “high stakes” handshake…
It’s a confident handshake as he grips Trump’s hand, holds his shoulder to assert control, pumps a few times, and then allows the president to break the shake.
Ok so there are a few examples of famous “pressing the flesh” but is there an “ideal handshake” that we can aspire to? In a word, yes.
When you think about all the shakes you have received in your life, a perfect one is all about applying the right pressure with the right amount of timing.
Pressure is key. A firm grip suggests confidence, openness, and warmth, whereas too hard looks like your trying too hard literally. Too little pressure and you create the impression that you either lack confidence, or that you just want to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible.
Then there’s timing. Not too fast, but not too slow. Watch Trump shaking Shinzo Abe’s hand for a full 19 seconds and then look at the confusion and then relief that shows on Abe’s face when it finally ends.
A long handshake is awkward and did you know (not to get too technical but) a good handshake only lasts 2-3 seconds at best? It’s true.
And let’s not forget the other important elements as well that include good eye contact, smiling and being warm and sincere.
And finally, a mention of the popular fist bumps…
Yes, the fist bump has become commonplace, but it’s not appropriate in situations where you want to appear entirely professional. Yes, it might be healthier than a handshake (in that fewer germs are transmitted through a fist bump), but when it comes to striking the balance between being professional and personal, the intimacy of a handshake is still #1. Save those fist bumps for your personal acquaintances!
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