Are you embarrassed by your handshake? Should you be?

Handshakes…just how important are they?

For me, it’s a big factor in my first impression of someone’s personal brand. So why do so many people get it wrong?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the following:

The Fish Fingers: when the person doesn’t fully engage with your hand and you’re left shaking their fingers, which they hold in a limp way like a dead fish.  If you’re really unlucky, that dead fish is also still a little damp – not nice!  The message I get from that: if they’re shy, their lack of confidence comes through; or if they seem confident it conveys a certain disdain (like shaking your hand is the last thing they want to do).

The Bone Crusher: when the person (most often a man) grips your hand so hard you’re left with an indent in your skin from your ring.  I know someone who actually had a finger broken by someone shaking their hand this way – how is that good for business? The message I get: either they’re blissfully unaware of what they’re doing or it’s their way of saying, “I’m a man and you’re not.”  Well thanks, but I’d already worked that one out!

The Cupper: when the person shakes your hand but cups their palm so that it doesn’t actually touch yours. Again, that gives a certain sense of disdain, like they want as little of your skin touching them as possible

The Double Hander:  A favourite of politicians the world over, they take their left hand and put it on top of your two hands which are already in a shake.  The style is one of sincerity, but the message is clear: I’m in charge here.

The Banzai: Named after the TV show where the reporter would stand on the red carpet and see how long he could keep hold of a celebrity’s hand in a shake. It’s not often I get this but when I do I find it very disconcerting, wondering where the hand holding is going to lead (often it’s to the ‘pull in and kiss on the cheek’ – which is a whole other blog).

So if that’s how to get it wrong, how should you get it right?

Step 1 – Get feedback on your current handshake from people who will give you an honest opinion.  If it needs work, move on to Step 2 – Practice your handshake with someone.  You should be interlinking the curve of your hand at the base of your thumb and forefinger, then wrapping your fingers around their hand (enough to feel you’re holding it but not so much as you’re gripping it) then shake up and down three or four times and release.

It’s not rocket science but if you get it right it can do wonders for your personal brand.

If you’ve enjoyed these musings, don’t be shy…leave a comment!  And please help me to spread the word using the buttons below.  Or if you’d like to learn more, check out my other blogs and follow me on Twitter.  Or drop me an email at jennifer.holloway@sparkexec.co.uk.  Thank you!

Spark specialises in branding, but not for companies – for PEOPLE, helping clients to market themselves so they stand out from the crowd, building a reputation that enables them to be even more successful just by being themselves.   Spark delivers personal branding to executives and senior managers in Leeds, Harrogate, Skipton, York, Bradford, Wakefield and the Yorkshire area, as well as in London and other UK cities. The company was founded by Jennifer Holloway and her 15 years’ experience in PR coupled with several years as an executive coach means she delivers a service unlike any other. 

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