If what I am experiencing on a regular basis is indicative of what is happening everywhere – then I fear for the future of a good firm handshake.

The problem is that no one ever actually teaches us how to shake someone’s hand. We grow up seeing it happen. Adults “shake” our hands…but not wanting to scare/harm/overwhelm us, they often do us a disservice by “going easy on us” and actually just hold our little outstretched paws gently and briefly. So we learn early on that a handshake is soft. Then we grow up and either shake hands like royalty expecting our rings to be kissed – or overcompensate by establishing a bone-crushing vice grip on unsuspecting victims.

Many of us will eventually figure out that a good handshake is somewhere between a dead fish and vice grips. Some of us will not.

So what makes a good handshake? I posted that question to Facebook to see what the masses had to say. Here are some of their responses:

  • “I have always been big on the handshake as a measure of someone’s self esteem, outgoingness, and respect. Needs to be firm and if it is, [length of] time doesn’t matter so much. Germs shmerms. Wash your hands a lot.”
  • “As a woman who works in a male dominated field…I appreciate it when a business man I am meeting with gives me a firm handshake, looks me in the eyes and treats me with respect as his equal in business!”
  • “I always use a firm handshake and look the person right in the eyes. I believe it says a lot about a person’s character and self-esteem.”
  • “If you are going to shake my hand with a limp hand, don’t bother. Gross!”
  • “Firm grip, two pumps, look in the eye, then let go. Don’t hang on to my hands while you ask about my family and what’s new!!!”
  • “There’s a difference between a polite handshake and just being limp and wimpy.”
  • “A two-hand shake (where someone holds one of my hands in both of theirs) is just weird. If you’re not my grandmother or my pastor…don’t do it.”

Here are my steps to a good handshake:

  1. Reach out your arm, and grasp the other person’s hand. (This means actually curling your fingers around their hand…not merely extending a hand to be held. This is what determines if a shake is “firm” or “wimpy.”)
  2. Two or three “pumps” is all it takes for a good handshake. One seems too brief, but more than three feels invasive of personal space and social convention. (Usually during this time a “nice to meet you” and “same here” are exchanged between parties.)
  3. Let go. (Do not wipe your hand on your pants/skirt/jacket. Do not pull out the sanitizer.)
  4. Carry on with your meeting.
The art of the handshake does not need to be a dying art. If we teach our children – especially teenagers – what a good handshake is, we will equip them with the ability to give a good first impression.