The easiest mistake you can avoid making in your career

Never underestimate the power of a good handshake!

Seems obvious, right?  Does anyone out there disagree with me on this one?  Probably not – so do I seriously have to blog about Handshaking 101?  Ahhh ya, I do because there are still far too many people out there who still hold onto their bad handshake and it is killing their advantage over their competition.

Bad Handshakers of the world (you know who you are), you must stop this insanity (you know, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result – as in – “I’ll give the ‘limp fish‘ shake again – but this time – this time by golly people will get that I have energy, and that I am confident and powerful!”).  Do you hear it now?  This is the kindest (full on – benefit of the doubt), talk bubble that good handshakers see over your head when they try to shake your limp fish hand. We get it – maybe you are having a bad day or you are a little low on energy or self-esteem right now, but unless there is a cast of some sort on your arm or hand – there is no excuse – for a bad handshake.  Why?  Because it is the least amount of effort, easiest and fastest way to convey a sense of energy, confidence and “glad to see/meet you”!  And if you don’t have energy or confidence at the moment for whatever reason, it is the least amount of effort, easiest and fastest way to fake a sense of energy, confidence and “glad to see/meet you”!

Are you smacking yourself in the head yet?

Do you know the history of the handshake? It is believed to go back as far as the 4th century BC.  It is thought by some historians to be a gesture of peace and to show that you have no weapons.  So with that origin you can see why too hard or too weak of handshake would be viewed unfavorably.  It doesn’t feel like peace or that you don’t have a weapon to kill me if you shake my hand too hard.  It also doesn’t feel like peace if you do a limp fish handshake because that doesn’t feel like you want to be there with me at all – it’s weak and whether that is due to being sick, tired, or shy – it doesn’t matter – all it says “I don’t want to engage with you” and that is not peace.

I actually went to a networking event the other day and at that event (which was on the topic of networking), the instructor gave a very detailed description of what a good handshake is.  Palm to palm with the skin between each person’s thumb and index finger touching.   The instructor even demonstrated this with an innocent by-stander in slow motion – and they both lived through it – it was fabulous!  Not 20 minutes later the event attendees were invited to mingle with each other – and I caught a limp fish – it was baffling to me!

In the 20+ years that I did recruiting and worked as an HR executive I can honestly tell you that not one “limp fisher” ever started an interview with a favorable impression from me.  They always had to work harder in the interview to convey why I should hire them or pass them along to a hiring manager.  It is hard to believe what the mouth says when the body is telling you otherwise.  Since the mind controls the body, you can make a strategic decision to give a good handshake even when it doesn’t feel comfortable for you.  That is courage – action with fear.  Being afraid to give a good handshake isn’t the problem – it’s not giving one that is.

Handshaking 101: The 8 steps for good handshake:

  1. Look the person in the eye (keep this contact all the way to the end of the handshake)
  2. Think a thought that makes you feel warm and happy (a sunny beach, sun rays on flowers in bloom, a baby’s smile, the idea of the handshake being over, you get it – whatever makes you feel warm and fuzzy)
  3. Smile
  4. Extend your right hand with your palm fully exposed to the left (not palm up or palm down), fingers together and thumb pointing up to the ceiling
  5. Slide your hand into the other person’s hand until your palms fully meet
  6. Wrap your fingers and the other person’s hand with about as much pressure as it takes to hold an apple when you bite into it
  7. Relax your thumb to the left of their thumb
  8. Shake their hand in an up and down motion with about as much rigor as it takes to crack an egg on the side of a bowl

There is no benefit at all to holding onto bad handshakes – it can no longer be “just the way you roll”.    Sorry if this blog seems blunt but there is just no other way to say it – “just let it go man, let it go!”  Declare your days of bad handshaking over!

Practice Handshaking 101 at home with someone you genuinely like – better yet, practice this with a child!  Teach them while you learn with them – what better example can you set for them?  The younger they do this the more comfortable they will feel about it as an adult!

If you mess up, just say to the other person – “Can we try that again?  I am working on perfecting my handshake”.  That is so much more impressive and memorable than a limp fish handshake.  Plus you will win them over.  Who would refuse the opportunity to help you? Maybe another limp fisher would but at least you are offering them the chance to improve too – who safer to learn with than a former limp fisher?!

Happy good handshaking!!

About Gina Calvano

Gina Calvano is a certified coach and Senior Professional in Human Resources, with over 20 years of experience as a talent management professional in both the private and non-profit sectors. With a unique approach, she combines her strategic corporate expertise and accreditations with metaphysics and transformational thinking which has resulted in people all over the world feeling good about themselves and connected to a sense of purpose.

She created the Success Readiness Bootcamp™, a step by step process that enables people to easily discover their unique talents and abilities and match them to majors, jobs, industries and leisure pursuits. Gina is also the co-author of Breakthrough! Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life with NY Times Best Selling Authors Marci Shimoff, Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood and Powerful Connections Made Easy™ with Aprille Trupiano, and is currently working on her next book — Caged in My Cube: The Turnaround Guide For Loving The Job You Hate.

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