Manly Skills: How to Shake Hands

There may not be a bigger element to a first impression in the business world than the handshake. Over the years, I am sure you have heard countless people discuss the “perfect” handshake. But really, what is the perfect handshake? To be honest, the type of handshake in many cases is contingent on the situation. I am going to provide you with some basic handshake styles and how they come across. Most people, myself included, use more than one and generally all the types of handshakes are hybrids of the styles mentioned below. If you think about it, you have probably shook thousands of hands from various generations, careers, genders, and situations.

The point of this article is to make you cognizant of some common handshakes that EVERYONE uses to some extent, and how they come across. Before we begin, a quick background on the handshake. No one really knows the origin of the handshake. We know that variations were used by the Ancient Greeks but many historians believe it has been around prior to written history. Many believe the variation that we use today is a common greeting that was developed in medieval Europe as a way for nobles, knights, and kings to establish that one another does not have a sword or wishes harm. Think about it. By turning your hand to be visible, and having it clasped by another person, you establish at least the obvious… that neither of you hold a weapon. Anyway, with that history lesson over, let’s address some common handshakes. 

The Politician- Pretty straight forward on this one. Clasp the outside of the hand of the person you are shaking hands with using your free hand. This is meant to show comfort, friendship, and poise. Depending on how well they know you, this could be construed as genuine or fake, but the politician just wants your support. 

The Crusher- You probably started practicing this one when you approximately 12 years old. It is where you shake someone’s hand and crush it. It is intended to show strength, aggression and to some extent, dominance. It is best to respond with at least a firm grasp, but don’t even try to outcrush the guy with hands the size of Muhammad Ali.   

The Lady- Every guy has seen this one. You go to shake a girl’s hand and they turn their hand over giving you the ability to only shake the fingers. In times gone by, this was intended for you to actually stoop and kiss their hand. Today, unless the lady is over 80 years old, don’t do that because you might scare them, get slapped, go to jail  or get fired. 

Hanging Back- This is sometimes common when you are caught off guard. But basically you stretch your hand out as far as it can go and try to keep as much distance from the person as you can. This generally will signal that you are uncomfortable or lacking confidence in the current situation. 

Palm Down/Up- Generally, when a person is first in extending their hand and they have a downward facing palm (or hoof in my case), that is  intended to establish dominance or authority.  (Popes and kings do this, so be sure to kiss their ring.)  Be careful in how you respond with your grasp to the Palm Downer crowd. And note that sometimes the situation allows you to counter it, in a way that is not too obvious, asserting that you are not submissive - or at least are to be respected. This requires that you sidestep and maneuver into thier personal space, so they must reposition their hand, allowing you to posture for equality.  If they are the first to extend their hand Palm Up, that is intended to establish a  non-threatening attitude; the  ”I’m cool, you’re cool, all is cool”  environment.

Check out this great resource: The Power is in Your Hands      

Touch Gloves and Come Out Fighting, 


Henry the Moose of Manliness

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