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What is your EtiQ?

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Bone Crusher or dead fish? Your Handshake Is Your Signature

By Cynthia Grosso


Shaking hands is probably the most common gesture people use on a daily basis.  Men and women alike, use it constantly in business and social situations. It is typically the first contact between two people and the first chance to establish a connection and a relationship. Your handshake conveys a non-verbal message, many times before you speak verbally.  It speaks loudly of your professionalism, confidence, trust- worthiness and savvy. It is as common in America, as it is around the world.  In most countries, it is an accepted gesture of introduction, agreement, friendship, congratulation and good-byes.  With all that being true, have you ever really given much thought as to the form, style or etiquette of your handshake? 

How savvy are you? Test yourself and see…

1. You are seated at your desk in your office, your assistant has escorted someone to your office, what do you do?
A. Stay seated and reach across the desk to shake hands
B. Stand up and come out from around the desk to shake hands
C. Stand up and reach across the desk to shake hands

2. In the question above, is the answer different for men vs. women?
A. Yes
B. No

You are doing well if you answered B to both questions.

Many times our handshake forms the first impression … an impression that speaks very loudly about who and what we are… what is your handshake saying about you?

Here are 10 tips to help you insure a powerful and confident handshake in business:

1. Always stand up - whether you are a man or a woman, you should rise.
2. Face the person squarely, not at an angle.
3. The handshake should be a "web to web"; contact between your thumb and index finger. By shaking hands web to web, this avoids the dead fish or fingertip only handshake.
4. Thumbs should be straight up. Avoid rolling one hand over or under for this may often denote a power struggle.
5. Make direct eye contact and hold the gaze through the introduction.
6. Smile, using a pleasant and approachable smile, not an overly big grin.
7. Carry papers, briefcase, drinks, etc. in the left hand leaving the right hand free for shaking hands.
8. Do not squeeze someone's hand too hard (bone crushing) or too soft (dead fish); these are both signs of insecurity.
9. Avoid pumping the hand up and down excessively.
10. The person who is being introduced "to" should extend his hand first.

Your handshake is a very important part of who you are. Once you understand and implement the correct etiquette, it can be a powerful tool for you in business and socially. I teach people to think of your handshake as your signature. Use it as a tool to speak about yourself in a positive and powerful way.

I am often asked what to do you do if you get the dead fish or incorrect handshake. Do you correct it? NO! absolutely not! The number one rule of etiquette is to let someone save face. Do not embarrass anyone at any cost, even if it causes you to shake hands incorrectly; for example by reaching across a desk or object. Although you know it is incorrect, avoid embarrassing the other person. This would not add positively to building a relationship if you start out by correcting them. More importantly, if someone gives you a dead fish handshake, it is either one of two things; They were never taught the correct way to shake someone's hand or they are uncertain. Either way, (In business neither is looked at positively) it is at this point, when we start to read the other person that we truly begin to communicate.

Source: Article published in the South Carolina Business Journal

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