Everyone has heard the old saying, “First impressions last a lifetime,” but many don’t realize how big of a role your handshake style plays.
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“Think of your handshake as a gift you give when you first meet another person. It should be positive, friendly, warm, welcoming, and the other person should come away having enjoyed the interaction,” Denise Dudley, career guru and author of “Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted.”
Dudley says just like our behavioral traits, there are three types of handshakes: passive, aggressive, and assertive.
A passive handshake
Sometimes called “the dead fish,” because it actually feels a lot like you’re holding a dead fish, Dudley says. This handshake is when the person you’re shaking hands with offers only part of his or her hand, and when you take hold of it, it feels limp and noncommittal.
“You don’t feel as if you’ve really connected with this person. This type of handshake feels like a disappointment—often to both parties,” Dudley adds. And that type of handshake immediately sends a message that you’re uncertain of yourself.
“Generally speaking, that’s how passive people feel. They feel as if they have less personal power than others. They feel beaten down and defeated, so their handshakes are actually telegraphing their perceptions of themselves.”
An aggressive handshake
Sometimes called “the bone crusher,” because it feels as if you’re being mauled or manhandled by the other person. Dudley says people with aggressive handshakes may do one (or more) of these things: they might snatch your hand and squeeze it too hard; they might pump your arm too vigorously, or they might grab you and yank you toward them, rather than allow you to stand your distance. They might even clamp their left hand over your already-captured right hand, which feels like you’re completely trapped!
Dudley says an aggressive handshake sends a message that you are “overly self-confident” and “I want to dominate or control you.” Aggressive people believe they have more personal rights than others and they telegraph their superiority through more than just handshakes—through glaring eye contact, interruptions, and a myriad of other aggressive behaviors.
An assertive handshake
Dudley, says just like in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, an assertive handshake feels “just right.” Here’s how you do it: you point your right hand toward the other person’s right hand. You aim your thumb at the other person’s right shoulder. You and the other person “come in” to each other’s hands, and keep coming until the webs of your hands touch together. You wrap your fingers around one another’s hands and then you close. Your “squeeze” is gentle, but firm. You both “pump” your arms one to three times, with three being the norm in our particular culture. And while you’re doing all of this, you’re also making eye contact, smiling, and saying hello.
This type of handshake sends a message that you “feel comfortable with yourself” and that you feel comfortable in this situation.