Get a Grip: Six Handshakes You Need to Know


While people may decide 10 things about you within 10 seconds of seeing you, it takes only 1-3 seconds to speak volumes through your handshake. Having a firm handshake is essential in the business world. It’s a key ingredient in creating a good first impression.
President and Michelle Obama slipped up when they gave the Queen of England the “sandwich” handshake. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to appear on Fox TV in Chicago to discuss it!

You always shake with your right hand unless you have a disability. If that is the case, immediately offer your left hand so people know to shake it. If arthritis or carpel tunnel syndrome makes it painful for you to have your hand shaken, say so to keep others from unknowingly hurting you and making them feel ill at ease when you wince.

I’ll discuss six handshakes that every good communicator needs to know. Even if you don’t use them, you need to be aware of what messages others are sending so you can file the information to use during the interaction.

Correct Way

Connect with the other person web-to-web. (The web is the area between your thumb and index finger.) Hold the person’s hand firmly. Shake three times maximum, no higher than three or four inches. Maintain constant eye contact.


As soon as your hands are linked, you purposely maneuver your hand onto the top. There’s no doubt you want to be in charge! Astute communicators note the message and adjust according to the circumstances, i.e. are you the manager or the employee, the vendor or the purchaser?


You envelope another person’s hand such that s/he feels like the filling in a sandwich. This gesture shows more intimacy and is not recommended the first time you meet someone. You are invading the private zone in her/his space bubble by enclosing her/his hand. You can use this handshake to show sincerity and concern after you know someone will appreciate it.

Limp fingers

This is the most awkward handshake for the other person. You extend only your fingertips, and s/he is not sure how to grasp them or how hard to shake. Occasionally, it happens by accident when two people aim poorly. More often, it signals lack of confidence or self-esteem and is a poor way to start off a business relationship. One solution that lessens the negative impression is to extend your hand its full length even if your handshake is weak so that the other person can grasp the entire hand rather than just fingertips.

Dead Fish

This is the slippery, damp hand you extend … and others can’t wait to get it over with. If you are nervous and perspire, carry a handkerchief or wipe your hand on your clothes. What you spend in cleaning bills will be paid for quickly in a better impression. You may unwittingly offer this handshake when you hold a cold beverage in your right hand and then switch it to your left to shake hands. The condensation is bound to remain on your right hand. Suggestions: Hold beverages in your left hand, set them on a table after you have taken a drink or don’t indulge.

Bone Crusher

Given accidentally (and sometimes on purpose), this one is practiced mostly by men. It can be painful when given by someone with a big hand and strong grip to someone with a smaller, more delicate hand. The hurt is enhanced if the person wears a ring on the right hand and the stone happens to be askew. If I know the person well, I’ll smile and say, “Hey, I need to use this hand again.” If I don’t know her/him, I’ll remove my hand as quickly as is feasible. If any firm handshake can make you wince because you have arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome, etc. do not extend your hand. If you think further explanation is needed then add that it can be painful for you to shake hands and, therefore, you don’t. There is no ideal way to counter the bone crusher. My comfort is that with the myriad hands I shake, I am rarely “accosted” by it.

Article Author: Lillian Bjorseth

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How to Add Polish to Your Interpersonal Communication


E-mail, IM, Skype, phone, snail mail — there are more vehicles for communication than ever before.   But when it comes to truly effective communication, there is nothing as good as face-to-face meetings.  That’s because more than 90 percent of the communication we do is nonverbal.  How can you possibly accomplish your communications objectives if the person you are communicating with receives only 10 percent of your message?

Add Strength to Your Words.  When I was growing up I was repeatedly told, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”  That’s what nonverbal communication speaks to. When you meet with someone, you have the opportunity to send your entire message and they have the ability to truly embrace it.  You can share the tone and volume with your voice and place emphasis on certain words.  Your facial expressions, gestures, and body language convey additional meaning that is totally lost with computer-based communications.  There is little room for misunderstanding.

Power Up Your Nonverbal Communication.  When you get together with someone, they have the chance to experience the real you.  If you want to make a good impression you’ll dress properly, and make sure your hair and nails are clean.  You’ll lead with a firm handshake that demonstrates self-confidence and follow up with good eye contact and a winning smile.

Tune In to feedback. Meeting with someone is more personal than using high tech lines of communication.  It gives you the opportunity to build a bond and establish trust.  When you’re talking, you get immediate feedback from the person you are with.  If the response is not what you expected or hoped for, you are in a position to modify it on the spot.

Ramp Up Your Listening Skills. A face-to-face meeting give you the opportunity to listen.  And listening is the most important communication skill we have.  After all, you don’t learn anything when you are talking.  You already know all about what you have to say.  It is when we listen to others that we have the chance to learn about them and what they are sharing.

Being an effective listener means asking open-ended questions and listening carefully to the answers.  Avoid the tendency to interrupt or advise.  Cultivate the ability to make the person you are listening to feel like they are the center of your world while they are speaking.  Let them see how interested you are in what they have to say — even if you really aren’t.  Actively listen.  That means listening intently and processing the information so you are in a position to respond in a thoughtful manner.  Be sure to read between the lines.  And be cognizant of their nonverbal behaviors.

Show That You Care.  Face-to-face communication is an opportunity to establish a common bond.  Make an effort to find an interest that you share. Be sincere.  Be interested.  Be giving. Supplementing your newly polished communication skills with the knowledge you care can work miracles with your interpersonal communication.

Author: Carol Dunitz, Ph.D.

Carol Dunitz, Ph.D. is president of The Last Word LLC, a communication and creative services company.  She is a professional speaker and author of ‘Louder Than Thunder,’ a parable about listening and interpersonal communication.  Dunitz is the playwright, lyricist and composer of ‘Bernhardt on Broadway,’ a musical about Sarah Bernhardt.  She can be reached at 312.523.4774, or

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