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Verbal Dexterity: Talking the Talk » Blog Archive » You Must Be Made Of Jelly Because Jam Don’t Shake That Way: The Art Of The Business Handshake

You Must Be Made Of Jelly Because Jam Don’t Shake That Way: The Art Of The Business Handshake

The handshake is one of those anachronistic traditions that has survived wars, technology and bad plaid suits. True, you can’t shake someone’s hand in an e-mail, but for in-person meetings (remember those?) it still can make a difference.

How you shake someone’s hand (or how they shake yours) says far more than anticipated.

The key is to know what kind of “shaker” you/they are:

  • The Football Linebacker: This individual likes to shake it “old school” style. They grab quick, hard and firm and try to squeeze the stuffings out of their fellow shaker. They intend to demonstrate strength, but in reality, they are predictable, traditional and like to be the one in charge.
  • The Empath: This person goes to shake with one hand and then caresses with the other as well (so it’s their two vs. your one). This is an emotional message of caring, desired closeness and sensitivity.
  • The Jiver: This character has seen too many 70’s movies and is trying to be just a little too casual for most business situations. It may work well with your buds on the basketball court…but don’t try this one with your CFO that just flew in from Cleveland.
  • The Limpster: Strength and dominance is not their thing. They meekly grab your hand with a weak and clammy gesture that screams “Can I please have my hand back!” They won’t be running the innovation committee soon.
  • The Water Pump: This person wants to show you how enthusiastic they are by moving your hand up and down multiple times. Thirty more seconds of this and you may feel compelled to buy a Timeshare. The initiator of this handshake assumes that the more they pump the more you will like them and listen to their message.
  • The Fist Knocker: Another Frat boy greeting that involves two equally immature partners desirous of a quick bonding moment. Each participant makes a fist and the two players tap their knuckes together. If done without missing a beat, you do not have to go through the entire hazing process.
  • The Solid Jab: Dry, forceful and parallel to the ground, this confident and worldly shaker knows when to get in and when to get out. “Can I give you my business now or do we have to go through the entire meeting?” Think Don Draper from “Mad Men.”

  • Today’s Tip: Yes. In business, you will have to “Shake” your moneymaker. Like a tie, pin or pair of shoes, how one shakes reinforces or reveals a little more about you or your counterpart. Use it as an opportunity to radiate confidence, control and deliberation. If done right, you will leave the other person in a state best described as a “James Bond Martini.”
    That’s right.
    “Shaken, not stirred.”

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