Thursday, August 18, 2011

Common Myth: The Stronger the Handshake the Better

When you meet someone, you should have a firm handshake. True enough. But firm does not mean crushing.

[Note: This advice is for the men out there. I think I've met one female hand-crusher in my life.]


- "Your manhood is determined by how hard you crush some one's bones when you shake hands."

I love meeting people. I love networking events. I love finding new friends. But there's one thing that I hate about all these.

The only thing I really hate about networking is the people who crush your hand instead of giving a good, firm, polite handshake.

No one should have a limp-fish handshake. And 99% of the people you meet get over the wimpy handshake pretty fast when they start shaking a lot of hands.

But you also should not have a handshake that is too powerful. There are two primary reasons for this.

1) It is rude.

Shaking hands is not an opportunity to demonstrate your dominance and aggression. Remember, this gesture started out as a way to know that a possible adversary was unarmed. It is the perfect time to look someone in the eye and make a personal contact.

When your handshake draws attention to itself, it is out of place. This is a great time for a smile and light chat. It's a horrible time to hurt your new friend and expect that they will remember you fondly.

An aggressive handshake is particularly impolite in some cultures. Be aware of the people you meet.

2) It can be painful.

Crushing some one's hand is not funny. It's not really an effective way to show dominance either, unless you're ten years old.

Sometimes I go to one event after another, meeting hundreds of people. In any given crowd, I estimate that 1% of the men I meet are hand-crushers. Another 2% are just-too-firm hand shakers. The result is that, after meeting a large number of people, I'm almost guaranteed that someone will have left my hand hurting for a day or two.

You never know when the person you're meeting has a recent injury, a permanent condition, or a disease such as arthritis.

I've met several people who attend these events with a brace on their hand. When I ask how they hurt it, I'm told that they're just tired of having jerks crush their hand at receptions, so they wear the brace and put up with half-hearted handshakes. At least it doesn't hurt.

- - - - -

The bottom line:

There are a million ways to make a good impression. Hurting someone in a social setting isn't one of them.


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  1. Good point. My strategy is a firm grip, but always being on the lookout for hand crushers so I can adjust my grip on the fly and politely crush them back. I've definitely never had my hand hurting for a couple of days! Good thoughts though :-)

  2. As a serious pianist as well as computer tech I could not agree more! -Roberta


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