Your Handshake Can Be Costing You Money

Barbara Weltman A handshake is a powerful form of nonverbal communication. The type of handshake you give can impart a great deal of information about you. And, if you learn how to read handshakes, you can gain insight into people you meet in business – information you can use to close a deal, gain the upper hand in negotiations and establish relationships for life.

Why is a handshake important?
Originally, a handshake was a way to show you were unarmed. Today, it is a window into a person’s character, information that is highly useful in a business setting. “Interpreting the type of handshake you receive can help you determine how your counterpart perceives you, how he/she perceives the relationship with you and therefore how best to manage the encounter,” says personal communications specialist Danit Ran-Schreiber of Image Democracy in White Plains, NY (

Review your own handshake to make sure you’re giving the right impression. The three things to watch are how you extend your hand, the amount of pressure you apply and the length of time you continue to shake. There’s an art to it, but with a little attention and practice, you can give the type of impression you want.

Types of handshakes
Categorizing the type of handshake you’ve received can help you remember the person who gave it. This can help you decide whether you want to do business with him or her.

  1. The All-American is used by many leaders and corporate executives. It includes looking you in the eye, smiling and pumping your hand two or three times.

  2. The lingering handshake is also a firm grasp and two or three pumps, but the shaker pauses before disengaging. It can mean openness or that there’s another agenda – use your instincts to interpret the pause.

  3. The push-off is a firm and warm shake followed by having your hand pushed away. This implies that the shaker has a need to establish his or her own territory and is standoffish.

  4. The pull-in can be manipulative, directing you to a chair or the door. Again, this person may not be a team player.

  5. The two-handed shake involves the left hand grasping your wrist, arm, shoulder or neck. This shake is often used by politicians.

  6. The topper has the shaker extending a hand with palm facing down, a demonstration of control. Experts say this is the shake of a conventional boss or manager.

  7. The finger squeeze is used to keep you at a distance because the shaker is insecure and trying to use the handshake as a weapon.

  8. The bone crusher, a too-tight grip, may indicate a strong leader buy it can be painful to you.

  9. The palm pinch is a shake of two or three fingers, often used by women who do not know how to give a correct handshake.

  10. The twister is a shake in which the other person takes your hand in the normal position but then twists yours under his/hers to be on top. Experts suggest this shaker may be deceitful or devious.

  11. The water pump is a rapid, multipump shake that shows that shows the shaker to be overly eager to make a good impression.

  12. The dead fish is the cold, clammy and indifferent handshake of someone who is passive or apathetic.

    Don’t rush to judgment about a handshake too fast; observe the entire picture (eye contact, posture, etc.). Compare the handshake at the beginning of the interaction with the handshake at the end to make a better assessment of both the individual and the meeting.

    To learn more, read the definitive book on the subject: The Power of Handshakingby Robert E. Brown and Dorothea Johnson (Capital Books, Inc.)

    Copyright © 2005, Inc.

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