Posted by: joha5 | January 19, 2011

What’s in a Handshake?

Body language is absolutely fascinating to me. In fact, I often rely more on a person’s body language than I do on their words. In many ways I think we all do.  I consider myself a keen observer of people and as a consequence of this one of my favorite pastimes is people watching.

This may sound strange – or maybe it will sound normal – but I can happily spend an hour or two sitting in a cafe or bar and watching people interact with each other. I like to posit about their history, who they are, how long they have known each other for, where they have come from, and what exactly their story could be.  I wouldn’t go as far as to call myself a voyeur, but I’m definitely an observer.

There are many things that I notice and pick up on when I people watch but the one thing I notice most about people is the way in which they greet one another or how it is they actually meet. Through out my career and my personal life I’ve shaken a lot of hands. Maybe not as many as your average politician but a lot of hands. Some hands I liked and some I didn’t – but I shook them anyway. A handshake says a lot about a person, their personality and the way in which they view you and potentially the dynamics of the relationship they intend to form with you.

Good Handshake.

There a lot of variables to consider when you’re weighing up a handshake but there are three major elements that I take note of when I first meet someone. Is it a strong handshake or weak? How is the person’s hand positioned – is it palm up, palm down or is the hand extended directly at you? I don’t like a palm down shake, it tells me this person is attempting to assert their dominance. Palm up is a little weak for me, it reminds me of a dog bearing its belly in submission.

Do they make eye contact? I like eye contact. Eye contact is good.

Grip – full or partial? I always notice the partial grip. You know the one I’m talking about, the half-hearted ‘ only hold your fingers’ grip? Yuck!  I’m never sure if this is an indication of fragility or if it is just an accident.  Either way, I’m far from fragile and I’d definitely rather not just shake your fingers so I’d just rather not partake in that kind of handshake at all if I can help it.  

Bad Handshake.

It’s actually quite funny how much a handshake actually establishes my opinion of people.  I’m not saying it is the only thing but it certainly serves as a foundation to build from.  Plus, if I don’t have the time or the energy to invest in somebody or really getting to know them the handshake is the main thing I have to go off of.  I may not always be right but I definitely trust my instincts and, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I can always rely on my first impression of a person within minutes of meeting them…

…and it starts with their handshake.



  1. Okay this was awesome. Could not agree with you more. I hate those that have no enthusiasm in their shake. Like the picture you posted. Likewise I find people who are overly assertive with their shake have ulterior motives or compensating for a lack of confidence.

    Regardless, nice post

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