I recently read an article which explained that there were up to 5000 times more germs on a persons hands than on their lips or cheeks. So for the sake of our health, maybe we should all resort to kissing people hello rather than shaking hands?
Probably not a good idea in most business interactions and certainly not at a first meeting, irrespective of your gender or the gender of the person you are meeting with. But an experience I had last week prompted me to write about handshakes and the importance of getting them just right.
Handshakes have been a formal method of greeting since about 150BC. It is believed that the original intention of shaking hands was to demonstrate peace and that there were no weapons held in the hand.
Fast forward to my experience last week… A client of mine was exhibiting at a large trade fair and asked me to come along for the day and coach his salespeople on how to best engage with visitors on the stand. My first recommendation was to have a bottle of hand disinfectant behind a counter and have the salespeople use it regularly, after all we did not want them all calling in sick the following day.
My other initial recommendation was to always greet every visitor to the stand or tentatively approaching the stand with a welcome handshake and a smile. That alone made a huge difference to the number of visitors they managed to engage compared to the previous year.
The first visitor I shook hands with was a dreadful experience. Their handshake was limp and weak and their palms were damp with perspiration. It was horrible! I felt slightly repulsed.
Tip: If you do tend to get nervous before a meeting and your palms perspire, or it is just a natural skin condition, do make sure you wipe your palms with a handkerchief just before going in to meet and greet.
I noticed that some of the sales team did not make eye contact with the person they were shaking hands with. Neither did they smile or even worse, they smiled as if their next favourite meal had just walked on the stand.
Tip: Eye contact and a natural, genuine smile when shaking hands is as important as the handshake itself. But do not overdo the smile. Nobody wants to feel like lunch.
Some more tips:
The Business Shake: The perfect handshake is when you connect the web between your index finger and thumb the the other person’s and pump gently but firmly two or three times and let go immediately afterwards.
The Political Shake: You will sometimes see people place their left hand over the hands that are being shaken. This over friendly two-handed shake is often used by politicians – say nor more! I do not recommend it as a greeting handshake unless you know the person really well. It is however appropriate to use it at the end of a meeting which has gone really well and can help cement a future relationship.
The Bone Breaker: You know this one. They squeeze so hard as if trying to break your bones. Even if it’s a natural tendency for you because you work out and are fit and strong, it is not appropriate. Control yourself.
And finally the Hoods Shake: This is where rappers, cool dudes and drug dealers bash fist to fist. Assuming you are not a rapper, buying or selling drugs, and even if you are a cool dude, this is a definite No-No.
I hope that was useful and at the very least, a little amusing.