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The Power of a Handshake

What does your handshake say about you? Does it convey that you are confident and self-assured? Or, does it suggest that you are insecure, an emotional bully, or overconfident? Research shows that not only will you be judged by your handshake, you will be forming an impression about the other person when shaking hands. During my etiquette training at the Protocol School of Washington, I was taught to see the right hand as a sensor for discovering the type of person with whom I was dealing. Once you understand the subtle messages of a handshake and learn how to deliver the correct handshake, you will have a significant advantage in mastering your professional image. This article provides guidelines for delivering the correct handshake, as well as it will help you interpret (and avoid) some of the most common types of undesirable handshakes, such as the “dead fish,” the “fingertip holder,” the”glove handshake,” and the “bone crusher.”

Undesirable handshakes leave an indelible impression. For instance, the “dead fish” is the most memorable, worst type of handshake to receive since it is often described as wet, cold, limp, and lifeless. Some suggest that the dead fish is so awful to experience that it sucks the life out of the receiver. If you are the recipient of the “dead fish” handshake, you may find yourself cringing while finding a way to disconnect from the person immediately. No one wants to get to know the person delivering the “dead fish” handshake since he is subtly perceived as having little self-esteem or indifferent; thus, the “dead fish” handshake can be a career buster.

The “fingertip holder” handshake is when the person extends their fingers, not their full hand, during the handshake. It conveys that the person is insecure or may be deliberately trying to keep the receiver at a distance. Many women are guilty of delivering the “fingertip holder” handshake, particularly those that were never taught how to shake hands properly. It should be avoided since it does not convey confidence.

The “glove” handshake is described as a two-handed exchange where both hands are used. Specifically, the right hand is simultaneously used for shaking and the left hand for covering the recipient’s hand. The “glove” handshake, also known as the “politician” handshake, is not recommended in the business arena since it may be interpreted as being overconfident. Another group that often uses the “glove” handshake are ministers, particularly when conveying sympathy. Again, the “glove” handshake is not recommended in professional settings.

The “bone crusher” handshake occurs when the deliverer squeezes the recipient’s hand hard enough that the bones are nearly crushed. It can be a physically painful exchange. The “bone crusher” is considered an emotional bully who is trying to dominate the recipient. Because it is an aggressive handshake with negative associations, avoid delivering the “bone crusher” handshake at all costs. Be careful that your handshake is not overly firm or aggressive.

If your goal is to convey confidence, intelligence, and open-mindedness, you’ll want to practice delivering a web-to-web, firm, dry handshake. With the right hand extended (fingers together and straight, thumb up), make web-to-web, palm-to-palm contact with the receiver while smiling and looking at the other person in the eyes. Your hand should be dry and warm to the touch. Pump twice from the elbow, pause, and release. If done correctly, the recipient will feel an instant connection to you. Let the power of the handshake work for you. You will be adding value to your professional image.

Article Source:
Brown, R. E., Johnson, D. (2004). The Power of Handshaking: For Peak Performance Worldwide. Protocol School of Washington

An excellent illustration:


About Lisa Brooks

Lisa Brooks, PhD, RD is an Assistant Professor in the School of Family Consumer and Sciences and the FCS Internship Coordinator at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL. Her training as a Corporate Etiquette and International Protocol Consultant from the Protocol School of Washington has helped her to empower hundreds of college students to dine well, dress well, and make an outstanding first impression. She is also the Faculty Director for Study Abroad Italy accompanying students to Florence, the heart of Tuscany, for specialized FCS programs like “Fashion, Food, and Wine,” “Mediterranean Cuisine,” and “Food and Wine Pairing.” Another passion of Dr. Brooks’ is the Disney College Program. Having supervised students in the Disney College Program for more than a decade, she has observed that it is a model for professional excellence. Her mission in life is to help others to reach their maximum potential through education, a positive attitude, and polite behavior.


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