For all its popularity, the handshake is not well understood.
According to one poll, some 70% of people don’t feel confident about their ability to give a proper handshake.
The mass ignorance is startling, given that the handshake is “one of the most crucial elements of impression formation,” according to University of Manchester psychologist Geoffrey Beattie.
As we know, people read a ton into first impressions.
“A handshake reveals aspects of the personality of the person giving it,” he tells the Daily Mail. “For example, a soft handshake can indicate insecurity, whilst a quick-to-let-go handshake can suggest arrogance.”
One of the most fascinating studies about handshakes came from St. John’s psychologist William Chaplin.
In 2001, his study of 122 college students found that handshake styles indicate personality types. Extroverts tend toward firm handshakes; introverts don’t.
That’s tough news for introverts.
“Having a firm handshake is important for making a good impression,” Chaplin said. “We found that men had firmer handshakes than women did, on average, but we also found that women who had firm handshakes tended to be evaluated as positively as men are.”
But a proper handshake isn’t a play for dominance. It’s a sign of sincerity.
Take it from Esquire writer Tom Chiarella, who wrote an ode to a proper handshake that we can’t help but endorsing:
On the street, in the lobby, square your shoulders to people you meet. Make a handshake matter — eye contact, good grip, elbow erring toward a right angle. Do not pump the hand, unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand. Smile. If you can’t smile, you can’t be gracious. You aren’t some dopey English butler. You are you.
And that’s a fine way to make a first impression.
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