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Business Blunders: Can You Shoot Yourself in the Foot With a Handshake?

Categories: Professional Development

The answer to the question posed in the title is, in a word, YES!

So, in honor of National Handshake Day on June 27 (although slightly belatedly), I’d like to warn everyone about the Ten Nightmarish Handshakes to Avoid. And when I say avoid, I’m talking about avoiding doing them yourself!

There’s simply no way to avoid shaking hands with others who are guilty of these horrible handshakes, but you don’t want to be the handshake blunderer who leaves a clammy, sweaty or otherwise undesirable impression.

By the way, just because I use the word “he,” that doesn’t mean men are the only bad handshake offenders. Women also should take a close look at these, particularly number 10.

  1. The macho cowboy: You know; he’s the bone crusher, determined to leave the impression that he’s as macho and strong as the Marlboro man. Ouch! Your poor hand.
  2. The wimp: He’s the direct opposite of Mr. Macho. Wouldn’t want to hurt the little lady, now would we? But the fact is, in this day and age, women expect to be treated with the same professionalism as men, and that extends to handshakes.
  3. The dead fish: Did you actually touch? Is he/ she afraid of contact? This person goes beyond wimp to limp. Not a pleasing sensation or strong impression. Dare I say this type of handshake stinks?
  4. The four finger: The hand has more than four digits. So, please remember to grab them all when you shake hands. Don’t forget the thumb is involved, too – in fact, the proper handshake is locked thumb joint to thumb joint!
  5. The cold & clammy: If you know your hands are cold, either warm ‘em up or apologize for it. As for clammy, ugh. ‘Nuff said.
  6. The sweaty palm: More ugh. But if you are the unfortunate recipient of a sweaty handshake, remember that etiquette and good manners prohibit eagerly wiping your hand on your trouser leg the second the shake is concluded. Sorry, you’ll just have to suffer through it, but please make sure you’re not the one who inflicts it. Talcum powder, anyone?
  7. The “I’ve got you covered” grip: I’m not really sure about the intention with this two-handed shake. You know, where you cover your already clasped hands with your left hand, too, for emphasis. What are you trying to convey? Whatever it is, I suggest finding a different way to convey it and stick to a right-hand-only shake.
  8. The “I won’t let go”: Also known as the eternal handshake. It begins normally, but is soon overdone, uncomfortable, and might even — heaven forbid — turn sweaty. Two to three pumps and let it go. Please.
  9. The southpaw: This has nothing to do with being a lefty or a righty. It’s when you shake hands with your left because your right is occupied with a plate, a drink, holding someone’s hand, whatever. At business functions, always leave your right hand free for the shaking.
  10. The ringed torture: What could be worse than meeting someone and having their rings bruise your hand while shaking? Well, OK, a lot of things. But is this the height of un-self-aware inconsideration, or what? Watch out for rings with big stones, rings that can scratch, and if the ring catches on your own clothing — probably not a good idea to wear it anywhere you might be shaking hands.
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