The Handshake: to give or not to give?

What makes the perfect handshake in your opinion?

Well, let me tell you what you should consider:

First of all, make eye contact with the person you want to shake hands with. There are people who feel uncomfortable when looking in other people’s eyes. In that case, I would recommend the following tactic: try to look between the person’s eyebrows.

Secondly, smile! Smiling is a gesture which is understood everywhere in the world, so use it to your advantage. Don’t be too focused on what you are going to say next or what the other person is saying, smile – it can often change the atmosphere completely.

And then shake hands. How to do it correctly?

Well, you might have heard of many different types of handshakes:

  • the dos and don'ts of handshakesThe “dead fish” – which feels like a very, very weak handshake.





  • handshakeThe bone-crusher handshake – the handshake which could turn out to be painful. Well, this handshake doesn’t show that you are a strong person, but someone who is insecure and has to dominate the other person in order to show their power.




  • handshakeThe “queen’s shake” – that’s when you touch a person’s fingertips instead of making palm-to-palm contact. This handshake comes across as if you would want to let the other person know: I’m better than you!





  • handshakeThe wrestler handshake – is the one which turns the other person’s hand over so that your hand is on top of it. This person wants to show their power in a very aggressive way. The only reaction to this gesture is to return your hand to a vertical position, so that power is again balanced.


  • handshake The double handshake – is used with two hands, in which you give a normal handshake and then place your left hand on top of the other person’s hand. This should be only used for intimate situations, for example when expressing your condolences. It is a way of letting the other person know that you feel for them.



In business, the higher-ranked person should extend their hand. If they don’t do it, then you can initiate it. Remember that whoever gets the hand extended first, controls the interchange.


So what makes “The perfect handshake”?

the handshake It should be firm, your hands should connect “web to web” (the portion of your hand between your thumb and forefinger). Then it should be followed by 3 up-and-down pumps. Should the other person still be pumping, make sure you don’t pull your hand away, that is equivalent to rejecting the other person, and that surely nobody would want to feel.

Some other rules to consider when shaking hands are as follows:

  • Don’t shake hands in a seated or subservient position. Therefore, stand up and then shake.
  • If there is any obstacle between you and the other person (for example a table), try to go around it and then shake hands, never lean across it.

They say that someone with a firm handshake is being perceived as more confident, credible, extroverted, expressive, open to new experiences. I can confirm that from my own experience. I noticed particularly among women that their handshakes are often very weak and it surprises me of the job positions they often have.



If you go to a job interview or if you meet a client for the first time, make sure your handshake is firm. That gesture might determine how serious you are being taken and how much time someone wants to spend with you! And if there are 2 candidates of the same caliber, the one with the stronger handshake might get hired. Think about it next time! Do you really want to make your weak handshake the reason for being rejected?


What is the right time for a handshake?

Now you know how to shake hands with others, but when is the right time to do it? Let’s have a  look at the different scenarios:



  • When you are meeting someone for the first time.
  • When you meet someone who you don’t see regularly.
  • When you say goodbye to those who you don’t meet regularly.
  • At the beginning and the end of business meetings.
  • When you close a deal on a non-verbal agreement.
  • At the beginning and the end of an interview.
  • When you are welcoming people to your office, into your house, a meeting, a class or presentation.
  • After a conversation or meeting to show agreement or solidarity.
  • Whenever someone offers you their hand.


It could also be that you find yourself in a different scenario where you might not be supposed to shake hands with others. Would you know in what situations giving a handshake would be considered as inappropriate? Let’s have a closer look at those situations.


When not to shake hands


no handshake


# 1 Religious reasons. There are some religions in which you are not supposed to shake hands, especially with a person of the opposite sex. If you are trying to impress a client or want to win new clients, be aware of cultural differences.

Conservative Jews, for example, would consider touching a man and a woman who are not close family members or married, as a serious offence. If you are wondering how you can actually find out whether someone is a “strict Jew” or not, look at their attire. Jewish men who wear a small black piece of cloth on their head are strict. It would be more difficult to spot Jewish women in that regard, but usually they wear long skirts, high collars and sleeves up to the elbow. But if you want to be 100 % sure whether you can shake hands or not, just ask “Do you hold by Shomer Negiah?”If the answer is YES, then you know to stay away from any handshake. But there are also other cultures where greetings are not carried out by using their hands.

Hindus and Sikhs for example fold their hands with a slight bow, rather than shaking their hands with each other. So, always be aware of cultural differences.

# 2 Dirty hands. Imagine you are going to a party and you just enjoyed eating a bit of messy finger food. You might not find people who would want to shake hands with you. In that case, you could say something like ‘I assume you would not want to shake hands with me right now.’ Smile, get a napkin, clean your fingers and then offer your handshake.

# 3 Silent moments. When you are introduced to someone or you join a group of people, don’t use the handshake to feel less uncomfortable, if there is silence in the room instead of an interesting conversation. When you shake hands people expect you to talk and converse.

# 4 – Meeting a person of higher status. In this case you should not take the initiative to extend your hand, but wait instead for the other person (of higher status) to reach out for you.

# 5 – Meeting a person with full hands. If you meet someone who is carrying heavy stuff, don’t expect them to shift what they are carrying from one hand to the other, or putting it all together down, just to shake hands with you.

# 6 – Meeting a person with an obvious disability. If someone’s right arm, hand or shoulder is visibly injured or is walking on crutches or carries a walking stick, you should not make them feel awkward and uncomfortable. Don’t expect them to reach out for your handshake.

# 7 – Meeting a person with a bad cold. If you are the person who has a bad cold, you can decline the handshake by mentioning the reason. You could for example say: ‘Excuse me for not shaking hands. I just don’t want to pass my cold on to you.’

# 8 – When wearing gloves. You are not supposed to shake someone’s hands if they are wearing gloves, no matter whether that happens outside or indoors.

# 9 – If you have a skin disease, such as poison ivy. In that case, you should cover your hand with a scarf to make clear to others that your hand should not be touched. For this scenario, extend your left hand to shake.


They might not teach you this kind of things in school. Thus, I hope after reading this article, you will never feel unsure or uncomfortable again in the future when shaking hands with others.


Watch this entertaining video with some more different types of handshakes:

Did you ever have a funny, scary, embarrassing or awkward experience with someone when shaking hands? I would love to hear from your personal experience.

If you know someone who could also benefit from this article, don’t hesitate to share it with others. Thanks a lot, I appreciate. 



Author: Karin Schroeck-Singh

Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” ( She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.

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