Since touch is the most powerful and primitive nonverbal cue, it’s worth devoting time to cultivate a great handshake. To perfect your handshake it is a good start to learn about the types of handshakes and their meaning. This way you can consciously choose which type of handshake to apply for different people. It might take some practice but if you apply the knowledge from this article you are on the way to your perfect handshake!


The perfect handshake, is it possible?

Shaking hands is a remainder of the earlier ages. When primitive tribes would meet in friendly or neutral circumstances, they would reach out with the palms of their hands facing forward. This was to prove that they did not carry or hide a weapon.

Even though most people have continued to shake hands in modern years, many of us still have not mastered the art. Most people don’t think about what they do with their hands or how they shake someone’s hand. However they don’t know that a perfect handshake can give you instant credibility. Alternatively, a wrong one can cost you the job or the contract. So, no “dead fish” or “bone-crusher” grips, please.


three perfect handshake

The perfect handshakes

Even so, the first time you shake someone’s hand determines if there will be a case of dominance, submissiveness or a neutral playing field. If you do it right you will make a strong first-impression or you will close a deal. However if you don’t do it right, your colleagues might start talking behind your back or your customer will run from you!

In this image you see the three main types of handshakes. I will explain what each of these handshakes communicates. These are the basics of handshakes and body language, however it is important to know everything about the basics before you move on to more complicated things.


The dominant handshake

You can display dominance in your handshake by turning your hand in such a way that your hand palm is positioned facing downward. Your hand palm does not have to face all the way down but when you put your hand on top of the other person’s hand you communicate that you want to lead the conversation.

In the first picture you can see that someone is clearly trying to take the control. This is because he positioned his hand is on top of the other person’s hand. If your hand is on top it communicates that you have direct authority over the other person.

If you going into a negotiation with the owner of a company, I recommend not using this handshake. Unless you truly have authority over the other person it could communicate that you’re trying very hard to look dominant. This handshake will suit you best if you are a very confident individual.

It is much more manipulative to give the neutral or submissive handshake. The dominant handshake is a very bold move and it’s hard to hide. Only use it intentionally and definitely not by accident!


Submissive handshake

The opposite of the dominant handshake is the handshake where your palm is facing upward. You can see This is the perfect handshake if you want to give the other person the lead in a conversation or situation. It could also be used for different situations. For example: if you would like to apologize to someone in your business network, you could greet them with the submissive handshake. If you need to apologize to someone you could also consider thinking about where you will sit and your posture also has a big influence on how your message comes across.

This type of handshake has a specific purpose but I don’t recommend using it all the time.


Neutral handshake

The neutral is a great option for meeting casually or when you don’t have any specific intentions with this person. The neutral handshake, as shown in the image above, is established by a firm vertical grip. When no one is in the dominant or submissive position, the neutral handshake is achieved.

On average the handshake of a man is twice as strong as a women’s handshake. Therefore it is not a surprise that you often hear women complaining that they squeezed their hand too hard. The man’s hands have evolved to pull, throw and hit things with over 45KG of force but in business there’s no need to crack someone’s bones! To create a feeling of equality during your handshake it is important to apply equal pressure compared to the other person.

Bonus Tips:

  • Don’t forget to make eye contact. I always make eye contact until the other person looks away but do whatever suits you best.
  • The way you can manipulate the handshake to your favour is by going in for the neutral handshake and once you are connected you then turn your hand to the position that you want (upward or downward facing palm).
  • The most important tip that I can give you is to practise with your friends and family and asking for feedback.


Read more articles by Sam Lucas here.

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