The handshake is a small and quick gesture but means a lot. A handshake is a silent cue about one’s personality and yes you guessed it, confidence. It is especially important to people (like me) who aren’t verbally outgoing. It gives us a chance to say, “I’m worth it!” without actually having to say it.
It is really hard to say where the gesture of the handshake originated since there are many different versions of the story. The one that seems to be most popular is from the medieval times. Upon meeting, men would present an open right palm to show that they were not carrying any weapons. It is also said to have originated from the “elbow-to-wrist” pat down which checks for hidden knives inside of a person’s sleeve. The shaking part of the handshake comes from trying to shake out any hidden weapons wrapped in one’s clothing. This act of proving that you were weapon-free created trust between strangers. Women were less likely to be carrying weapons; therefore handshaking was not commonly practiced among women and is still used less frequently between women today.
Enough about history, what about today? There are many ways a handshake could go sour. A bad handshake sends the wrong signals to the other person, creating more work for you after the fact. To avoid having to play make-up for a little mishap keep some of these tips in mind the next time you go shake someone’s hand:
*Always orally introduce yourself first. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy (for us verbally challenged people) but something simple like, “Hi, my name is Sarah. It’s nice to meet you,” will get the job done. Going right in for the kill with a handshake without saying anything first will make for an awkward moment.
*Use your right hand, even if you are a lefty! Why is this? No one really knows but just as with the origins of the handshake there are many predictions. For instance, in the Christian faith, the left hand is associated with the devil. In Islamic faiths, the left hand is reserved for non-hygienic aspects of life, such as wiping yourself after using the bathroom (yes, I said it… so what?). In many cultures and religions, greeting someone with your left hand is seen as an insult.
*Make the handshake short (pump/shake only 2 or 3 times). Holding onto a stranger’s hand for too long makes them feel uncomfortable. Come on now, we have all had that experience. As a guide, start your handshake as soon as you start introducing yourself and end it by the time you are done.
*Now, for the grip. You want a good grip, one that tells the other person you are a force to be reckoned with but there is no reason to break their hand while doing it. Don’t be limp, but don’t apply too much pressure either.
*Many times you will see women only offer up their fingertips to a handshake and I am warning you now: DON’T DO THIS! Presenting the other person with your whole hand shows them that you are their equal and not just another dainty woman.
*Shake with one hand; don’t cover the other person’s hand with your left hand. It’s way less intrusive, especially when meeting someone for the first time.
The handshake is simple, so don’t get too nervous about it. When used appropriately it can send the other person a fabulous first impression without any words being spoken. But, if you mess it up, don’t sweat it (no one likes to shake hands with sweaty palms)! There will be plenty of time later to make-up for it.
Handshake bonus: Remember your posture! See my first blog post.
Now, go practice your ‘lipstick confidence’!
(P.S. You can also follow my blog on Twitter: @lconfidence)