The Art of a Handshake

by Jenn Curtis

With each new semester, I consistently do one thing as I meet new parents and students. I stick out my hand inviting them to shake. It might seem old fashioned to some people, but it helps give me information. A handshake can tell me about a person’s ability to connect, their confidence level, and charisma. I learn all of that in just a few seconds.

The ability to “connect” is found in the amount of eye contact. The handshake moment is not complete without the eyes. Many people say that the “eyes are the window to the soul.” What better way to meet a new person than to look them straight in the eyes and say “hello”. It creates a connection, saying in essence, “I see you. You are important to me.” With technology comes isolating impersonal behaviors of texting, emailing, and social media interactions. With eye contact and a handshake a person is socializing, expressing their personality, and making an impression.

A person’s confidence level is shown through the firmness of the handshake. A proper shake says, “I feel sure of myself and therefore I’m ready to connect.” That is the impression people want to make with others. Think about the limp or over strong handshake for a moment. What does that say to others? The limp handshake leaves a person wanting more and gives a feeling that a person doesn’t feel comfortable being in your presence. The over strong handshake leaves a person believing that you are overcompensating for feeling insecure. There needs to be a balanced space for a steady firm handshake that conveys your message of confidence.

Every handshake isn’t complete without a bit of individualism. A personalized touch has the ability to set you apart from the pack. By developing your own little charismatic twist, you can allow someone to remember you completely by your handshake. Some ideas are: pull the person in toward you a little, give a quick final firmer squeeze, use two hands, or shake until you are done talking. All of these additions can leave their mark and highlight your personality.

The handshake is physically simple: grip, shake, and release. Learning the art of the handshake takes time and effort. If you start teaching and practicing with your kids early, they can be effective communicators with one shake of the hand.

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