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Shaking Hands Etiquette

Priya Johnson Nov 20, 2018
Handshakes are age-old gestures used to say hello, thank you, farewell and congratulations. Though, often taken casually, handshakes are gestures that speak a lot about a person...
If you thought handshakes were just a gesture of greeting, then think again! Handshakes give the opposite party a fair idea of your personality traits. We never realize how much a simple handshake gives away about our personality. And since we all want to set a good first impression, it is important to be aware of the right shaking hands etiquette.
This etiquette varies from one culture to another, for example, Korean women will not shake the hands of Western men and will only nod in recognition, while Western women will extend their hands to Korean men. Moreover, in Turkish social gatherings men will not shake their hands as a greeting gesture.
Thus, shaking hands etiquette are determined to a large extent by the cultural scenario. However, we will have a look at some American handshaking etiquettes that are widely accepted across the globe.

How to Shake Hands

Position and Eye Contact

If you are seated and somebody comes extending his or her hand for a handshake, stand up and shake his or her hand. Remaining seated is being impolite.
Moreover, maintain appropriate distance between the two of you; not too close, but enough distance to shake your hands well. One should also maintain eye contact while shaking hands. This makes the opposite party feel welcome and comfortable.


Handshakes, in general should be brief and to the point. Holding on for more than 2-3 minutes will be pardoned at a social gathering, but not at business meetings. The crux of the matter is to always keep handshakes brief.


One's handshake should emit a feeling of strength, dignity and warmth. The hand should be firm and not lifeless like a seaweed. The handshake should be a complete one and not a bone crunching type of handshake.
For this, one should grasp the opposite party's hand completely, with the web between one's thumb and pointer finger meeting the other person's. Wimpy and limp handshakes can be quite irksome and end up in a turnoff.

Not Aggressive

When we talk of firm handshakes, how firm should a handshake be? After all, handshakes are gestures of friendliness and respect and not a display of physical strength. The idea of a handshake is to connect and not to be overbearing or annoying. Vigorous or aggressive shakes are not called for. Just be firm and do not squeeze the person's hand.

Ending Handshake

Let go after 2-3 seconds and keep the handshake brief. To make things less awkward, make sure your handshake ends before your conversation does. You don't want a handshake session to seem like a hand holding one.

Shaking Hands Etiquette

Besides varying from one culture to another, handshake etiquette also vary depending on the occasion. The etiquette at business meetings will vary from that at social gatherings. Let's have a look at them.

At Business Meetings

In a business setting, do not extend your hand for a handshake, when you are with someone higher in rank or designation. Always wait for the superior authority to extend his or her hand for a handshake. In business settings, men are expected to shake the hands of women, irrespective of their age, just as one would do with any male business associate.

During Job Interviews

At a job interview, as a candidate one should not extend the hand forward for a handshake. Only if the interviewer extends his or her hand forward, should you shake your hand. Make sure you grasp the interviewer's hand correctly, lest you want to radiate a wimpy impression even before the actual interview has begun.

At Social Gatherings

Gentlemen are always expected to shake each other's hands during social gatherings or in church. Men ought to extend their hands to women, who are of the same age as them or younger for a hand shake.
For older women, the gentleman is expected to wait until the older women extends her hand out first. This is because at social gatherings older women are given higher importance.
Paying heed to these etiquette will help you save your neck in important business meetings. You never know how and when a proper handshake can get you your dream deal!