Everybody does it. But not a lot of people do it well. Yet it’s really not all that complicated. You lock hands; you drop hands. But two people can communicate a great deal that way: A handshake can say, “I trust you.” “I don’t trust you.” “I like you.” “I don’t like you.” “I fear you.” “I can crush you.” “I’m nervous.” “I’m confident.” “I’m cocky.”

What does yours say? If you meet new people frequently, it’s worth evaluating. Your handshake at a networking event, during a job interview, on a sales call, or at a social event can start the relationship off right—or ruin your best chance of ever connecting on a deeper level.

The normal handshake involves grasping another person’s hand firmly, holding it so that both palms are parallel, giving the hand two to four pumps, and then releasing it. Variations on this normal handshake are negative, ranging from noticeably negative to nerve-wracking.

The Dead-Fish: (Offering limp, lifeless fingers for someone to try to grasp and shake) Both genders give the dead-fish handshake. Often men who otherwise give a strong handshake to another man offer a dead-fish handshake to a woman—as if her hand might break should someone grasp it firmly.

The Macho-Man: (Offering the vice-grip and applying pressure as if you’re in a competitive contest to bring others to their knees with cracked bones) Again, the macho-man handshake is as often delivered by women as men. The point? Maybe she’s communicating, “I’m as tough as any man; I can take it and I can give it. Try me.”

The Lover’s Clasp: (Covering their hand with both of yours as if the beginning of …. what?) This “clasp” handshake reminds me of elderly people about to reminisce about the days when they walked 10 miles to school in the snow uphill both ways—and all for the love of spending more time with you.

The Dominator: (Clasping their hand and then twisting the palms so that your hand actually rests on top with theirs on the bottom) For added dominance, some people push the hands toward the other person’s stomach, giving themselves the real “upper hand.” They’re trying out for the next Terminator movie maybe?

The Double-Grab: (Grabbing the other’s hand in a normal way, but with the second hand, grabbing the receiver’s wrist, or elbow, or upper arm, or shoulder) These “grabs” suggest intimacy and possessiveness that may offend. People don’t know whether to start rumors or just blush and walk away.

Do handshakes matter? An acquaintance of mine, a former secret service agent who stands 6’3” and weighs more than 200 pounds tells about a conversation he once had with a union business agent: “The guys like you, but you have a weak handshake. They respect a firm handshake.” In his line of work, a conversation like that will get your attention.

Avoid getting a relationship off on the wrong foot with a handshake that communicates louder than your words about your personality, intentions, and attitude.

Author's Bio: 

Dianna Booher, an expert in effective communications, founded Booher Consultants in 1980. Dianna has written more than forty books in the fields of business communication and productivity. As a high-caliber keynote speaker who inspires audiences worldwide, Dianna delivers focused programs to address specific communication challenges.