The Right Way to Shake Hands

Last Updated Jul 18, 2010 5:12 PM EDT


You know what drives me nuts? A limp handshake. Or a guy who inexplicably cups his hand so you never make palm-to-palm contact. This is a basic life skill, so how is it that so many people get handshakes wrong?

To help you get them right -- meaning avoiding things like limp wrists and lack of eye contact -- Discovery News offers a formula for the perfect handshake. Here's the result of a study of "12 key measures needed to convey trust and respect":

Use the right hand; a complete grip and a firm squeeze (but not too strong); a cool and dry palm; approximately three shakes, with a medium level of vigor, held for no longer than two to three seconds.

The handshake must also be executed with eye contact kept throughout and a good natural smile with an appropriate verbal statement, according to the scientist.

Now, some of that is a little vague. For example, how does one ensure a cool and dry palm? And what about the inevitable "bad-grip" handshakes that happen either by accident or because the other person lets his hand go limp?

A couple tips based on my decades of hand-shaking experience:

  • I usually extend my hand first, and always with my palm tilted skyward around 45 degrees (as opposed to perpendicular to the floor). That makes it easier for the other person to "land" their hand.
  • If the handshake "goes wrong," meaning you end up with a weird grip, I usually pull back quickly and make a joke: "Whoa, gotta abort that landing and try again." Then I stick my hand out again. It's stupid, but for me it beats sticking with an awkward initial shake.
  • When it comes to men shaking hands with women, I always heard that proper etiquette was to let the woman offer her hand first -- otherwise no handshake. Any thoughts on this?
  • For anyone in business, it's crucial to master the combination of eye contact and a warm smile. It took me years to do it, and I'm now keenly aware when others look away and/or look uncomfortable. It makes a bad impression!
Do you have any handshake advice -- or horror stories -- to share? Why do you think so many people are so bad at the practice? Share your thoughts in the comments. [via Lifehacker]
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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.