Making a good impression in any small business is about getting off to a good start. A handshake is very often the first contact you’ll make with a prospect and you need to get it right. Denise Dudley is a career guru, author of Work It!, Get In , Get Noticed, Get Promoted and a behavioral psychologist.
Small Business Trends spoke with her about the rules for shaking hands properly and how to leave that first impression that works.
Rules for a Business Handshake
“Handshaking is always better if you can do it when you’re standing,” Dudley says.
It’s polite, it honors the person you’re about to meet and it puts your body into the proper alignment.
Next, you need to stand should to shoulder with the person you’re about to shake hands with. Pivoting your body to shake hands is a mistake. You should always turn to directly face the person you’re about to meet.
Aim Your Right Hands at Each Other
Usually the person you’re about to shake hands with will cue in and position their right hand to receive yours. Thumb placement is important here.
“You want your thumb to be facing their shoulder,” Dudley says. “It looks weird if you aim it at the sky or ceiling.”
Go Web to Web
Proper thumb placement keeps the web of your hand ( the loose skin between your thumb and index finger ) open. Dudley explains the significance of this approach.
“In a handshake you want to go web to web. When I take your hand into mine, I don’t stop until I feel those webs touch.”
Close Your Fingers
Once the webs meet, you should close your fingers around the other person’s. There’s a few things to watch for here. The Dead Fish is where you only get the fingers of the other person and not their web so the handshake goes limp. On the other hand, the Bone Crusher takes the recommended firm and gentle handshake to an extreme.
Pump from the Elbow
This is an important moment. You want to show sincerity and one to three pumps is all you need. You need to execute this from the elbow to get the desired effect.
“A pump executed from the wrist feels jarring from the other person’s perspective and from the shoulder can actually pull someone off their feet,” Dudley says.
Make Direct Eye Contact
This isn’t negotiable. Looking down or away isn’t acceptable. Dudley notes many politicians break this cardinal rule when they’re shaking hands in a receiving line by looking ahead to the next person.
Break The Grip
A firm but friendly handshake should last two or three seconds. After that, it’s best to break the grip.
“I recommend these because there’s nothing nicer than a smile,” Dudley says adding if you can’t muster one up, a pleasant visage will do. “It must be a facial expression that looks open and welcoming.”
Making that great first impression means being open to exchanging pleasantries through the process.
Handshake Photo via Shutterstock