Handshake Protocol

achieve through three hours of interaction with a stranger is automatically created by the physical touch of that initial handshake.

A handshake will tell you much about the people you meet, and they will also use the opportunity to form opinions about you. If you hesitate to offer your hand readily, the person you are meeting may assume that you are reticent and withdrawn. Shaking the hand of someone who holds their arm out stiffly is a good example of “keeping someone at arm’s length.” Beware - they may not be willing to develop an amicable relationship with you, given this first negative impression. Do not allow a lack of handshake protocol hinder your ability to network effectively with others.

Follow these pointers to make sure every handshake is welcoming, and reflects positively on your professionalism, and goodwill:

• Shaking hands in a business setting is not limited by gender. In the past, shaking hands with women in a social setting was not always practiced. Confusion still exists in this area. If you are a woman, extend your hand readily in greeting to avoid any hesitation and awkwardness on the part of the person you are meeting.

• When doing business globally, it is essential to research the customs of the people you will be meeting and to be ready to greet them accordingly. In some countries, physical contact with the opposite gender is not socially acceptable.

• Extend your right hand, even if you are left-handed. If you or the person you are greeting has a physical disability that prevents the use of the right hand, then the left hand is to be used. If the left hand is extended to you, do not be embarrassed or draw attention to the irregularity of the situation; shake hands with your usual enthusiasm.

• Grasp the whole hand firmly, not just the fingers, and shake it approximately two or three times and then release it. It is never pleasant to be on the receiving end of a limp handshake. You may begin to wonder if the person with such a handshake has any authority or decision-making powers.

• If you are shaking the hand of someone who has a smaller bone structure than yours, be careful not to squeeze the person’s hand so tightly that it causes them pain. You do not want to make a lasting negative impression.

• Handshakes should not be an opportunity for arm wrestling. There are more effective ways to show that you have the upper hand.

• Do not be too affectionate when shaking hands. Grasping the other person’s hand in both of your hands, putting your left hand on the person’s arm while shaking hands, or putting your arm around a person’s shoulders are gestures that are too familiar and inappropriate in a business setting. This kind of familiarity belongs in a social setting where you know the person well, and you have their permission to greet them in such a manner.

• If moist palms are a concern and an embarrassment to you, try placing a linen handkerchief sprayed with antiperspirant into your right pocket. Keep an eye out for an imminent handshake and wipe your hand subtly on the handkerchief before extending it.

• If you are networking where cold drinks are being served, always hold your drink in your left hand. Not only does this keep the right hand warmer, it avoids the necessity of awkwardly shifting your glass to the left hand and removing the condensation from your fingers before shaking hands.


Additional business protocol tips that foster good business relationships can be found in Managing Your Image Potential: Creating Good Impressions in Business by Catherine Graham Bell.

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