Getting to grips with the perfect handshake

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Mannersmith has been delivering etiquette training to corporate employees for almost 20 years but, according to the company’s founder, a growing number of business professionals are now stumbling at the all-important handshake hurdle. 

“People’s interpersonal skills have really gone downhill,” says Jodi R. R. Smith. “Things that people used to graduate from college knowing how to do- things like shaking hands and looking people in the eye when they’re having a conversation- I now have to teach them those real basics before we move on to higher level interpersonal skills.”

The perfect palm-to-palm might seem like a walk in the park for some professionals but consider this - how many times have you been on the receiving end of a bad handshake? That’s the question Smith starts many of her seminars with and we’re betting most people have had their fair share of floppy-fingered or sweat-soaked shakes.

“We make presumptions and assumptions very quickly and very early on,” says Smith, “a handshake is one of those first clues and cues about someone so it’s important to get it right.”

According to Smith, there’s an almost exact science to the perfect handshake and it starts in the webs; “Our webs are that little flap of skin between our index finger and our thumb,” explains Smith, “your web has to meet the other person’s web. Then the fingers curl around the hand, apply pressure. One, two, three shakes are okay, four is getting strange and five is creepy.”

Five is creepy.

If you’re reading this in horror, thinking about the time you broke every one of Smith’s set in stone rules, don’t worry – even the most seasoned of shakers make mistakes. Take a look at Barack Obama’s painfully long fist pump and make yourself feel better.  
  • karen on 2014-11-03 2:21:48 PM

    Why are we still shaking hands at all? In a time of such high concern with communicable diseases, deadly viruses, not to mention the common flu etc., isn't it time we looked at a different form of greeting that doesn't expose us to the potential risks of a bacteria-sharing handshake? How about introducing a polite bow, or some other form of business greeting so that we don't need to run for the hand sanitizer immediately after an interview, etc.?

  • Jodi R R Smith on 2014-11-03 3:44:40 PM

    Karen, I completely agree! I often joke in my seminars that when I am Queen of the World, we will all greet others with the formal and perfectly polite Asian bow instead. Warmly, Jodi

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