group of 3 people shaking hands

The Dread of the First Handshake

I remember my first handshake very well. It happened when I was with my mother at one of her company events. There were tons of people twice my size and I tried to avoid eye contact at all costs. But as my mother started talking to people, she noticed how I would retreat into my shell so she challenged me to introduce myself to the next person who walked up to us. My mom instructed me to reach out my hand and say my name, so I did.

I cautiously grabbed the stranger’s hand and gave it a dull, lifeless, cringe-worthy shake while I said who I was. After her friend walked away she laughed and asked me why I seemed so afraid to shake the person’s hand. And I had no reply except, “I dunno.”

Ten years later, I still dread the first handshake, but I understand the importance of doing it properly. So I tried to understand why I disliked handshakes and why I was so awful at them. Turns out it starts with confidence. As a teen and young adult, I had always lacked confidence and my handshake was a HUGE giveaway. Once I realized this I became firm with my handshake, letting the other person know how pleased I was to meet them.

A good handshake is professional, quick, and allows you to read someone before they even open their mouth. Some people get it right and some people don’t. Here are five types of handshakes. Which one are you? 

1. The Body Builder/Dominator

We have all come across this type of handshake. You may wince through a smile or try to release a little bit early if you are on the receiving end. This is the most intimidating type of handshake.

The Body Builder many not know his/her own strength thus crushing bones with little to no awareness unless someone points it out. A key giveaway that someone will most likely dominate a conversation or a room is if they aim their palms downwards making the other person lower that hand having to adjust for comfort.

2. The Hand Hugger

This hand shaker always has the warmest and most sincere interactions. You can tell that this person is fully engaging with you and paying attention to what you are saying during your brief introduction. This individual has no problem maintaining eye contact and will possibly help you to open up a bit more about yourself and speak genuinely.

3. The Perspirer

If you haven’t guessed by the title, the perspirer is the type of handshake that leaves your palm a little sweaty. This handshake is a big indicator of nerves, anxiety, and discomfort. If you identify as The Perspirer, you can still exude confidence during your conversation. Speaking clearly and smiling will help combat that anxious feeling and before you know it you’re just speaking to someone naturally and confidently.

4. The Dead Fish

A handshake that I know all too well, “The Dead Fish.” The Dead Fish is the type of handshake that says, “Why are you touching me” or “I really don’t want to be here and/or care to meet you.” You may not even have those voices in your head but because of your dread of that very handshake, you give off the vibe that the person is not worth your time at all.

The Dead Fish is one of the absolute worst handshakes, especially in a professional environment. When you meet someone important or someone you want to leave with a first good impression, don’t turn them off by having no energy at all. That communicates that they are just a waste of time. A trick I learned to get over The Dead Fish handshake was to let the other person end the connection. That way you continue the conversation on an energetic note and are not thinking about the potentially awkward handshake. 

5. The Perfect Shaker

We all want to strive for this type of handshake. The Perfect Shaker is firm but not dominant, friendly, and energetic. This type of handshake creates a great base for conversations. You feel confident and you make the other person feel confident as well.

Not only do you feel like you can listen to the person speaking in a comfortable manner but you also feel heard, which is key to a successful interaction on both sides. Unlike a dominator handshake, the perfect handshake will have an equal weight/balance to it, therefore, starting a conversation on the same level of energy.

Final Thoughts

Most of us can say that we don’t have the perfect handshake and that is ok. It is all a learning experience and will get better with practice and time. So think about the impression you want to leave at your next meeting, networking event, or party and let that confidence shine!

 

group of people talking and smiling