Handshakes are a part of business networking. As much as I want to fight that, they are. Although they’re going to stick around forever, there’s at least a few rules we can follow to make them better for everyone.
This is part of the Networking Etiquette series.
Standard practice is three pumps. That means you go up, down, up, down, up, down, and then you’re done. This should take about 1-2 seconds. That’s more than one pump per second. It’s meant to be quick, mildly intimate, and over as quickly as it starts.
Lingering handshakes are too intimate for a business setting. Maybe they’re appropriate on a first date or among family. In business, it becomes inappropriate.
A few decades ago, there was a weird piece of advice going around that the stronger the handshake, the better. I sincerely hope whoever coined that advice had his hand crushed because I’ve encountered too many men who still believe their handshakes have to exert dominance in a way more undesirable than a dog peeing on me.
Think about this: you’re trying to get someone to know, like, and trust you. Why would you want to cause them discomfort? Therefore, a handshake should be firm in a way that expresses security. Think of a warm hug. That’s where your handshake should land when it comes to firmness.
No Two Handed Handshakes
Seriously, you do not need to ever do a two-handed handshake in a business environment, at least not in our culture in the United States.
First bumps are gaining traction (thanks pandemic), so they work, on occasion. I’m happy to see an alternative to the handshake making it into the business world. Will it last? I don’t know. Fist bumps are nice because they require less physical contact, less intimacy with a stranger, and they carry a lower risk of passing on germs and diseases.
The downside is that they’re not universally accepted, so you might end up in an awkward dance with a potential connection. That’s not the first impression you want. If, however, the fist bump is your preference, give it a try, but you have to initiate it before the other party offers a handshake. That’s your best bet.
It’s About the Other Person
I don’t know why I have to say this, but it appears as though no one really grasps it. The handshake is about the other person. You’re trying to meet people, and on top of that, you’re trying to get them to like you. Therefore, you should do what it takes to make sure your connection is receiving the appropriate greeting.
For example, if your connection has their right hand in a cast, offer your left hand without any mention or fuss.