Secrets of a Great Handshake

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • What is a good handshake?
  • How do I give a good handshake?
  • How long do I shake hands for?

The hand shake is the most important professional greetings in the world today. There are many cultures in the world, and there are places to bow, and places to hug, and places where cheek-kissing is perfectly appropriate. The handshake, though is the preferred greeting for most of our audience.

If you're going to do business in the world, or if you're a manager at a multi-national corporation, you need to know how to shake hands. This cast will teach you in excruciating (grin) detail.

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It is interesting about the history and

It is interesting about the history and birth of the handshake. I have read that the handshake comes from the pre-historical practice that an open right hand showed you were not carrying a weapon; if two men met and displayed empty right hands, this presumably meant a basic level of trust existed that neither would stab the other.

Chris- While there are many


While there are many histories, I think surely the theme you suggest has to be part of it. I do think at some level it's about touching and trust and openness.

Stabbing, on the other hand, would tend to indicate issues of trust and lack of openness.... I think.



Guys, thanks for this, and the rest of

Guys, thanks for this, and the rest of your great stuff. I'm working my way through the entire archive...

The "Handshake" cast was great. My father was one of the few who actually did a very good job teaching me how to shake hands, so I was ahead of the game on this one. But it's such a good resource, since not many have learned this skill.

When you were talking about folks not getting why you would do a cast on handshakes, I thought, "of course this is beneficial." But it strikes me as one of those things where the only ones who really understand the benefit are the ones who need the help the least! Those who can't figure out why you would do this are the finger-crushing vise-grippers.

Great as always ! It is amazing how a

Great as always ! It is amazing how a simple action could influence the relationship and feelings with someone.
Mike/Michael could you suggest what to say during the handshake ? I always use the "Nice to meet you" formula: is there anything more powerful or specific to be said on particular situation ?
Especially for not english mother tongue it is important to use something appropriate not too formal and academic

Bilbo- Thanks for the kind remarks.


Thanks for the kind remarks.

Sorry we didn't cover that in the cast. We decided to separate (for time) the verbal part of the greeting from the physical part.

"Nice to meet you" works fine. I usually recommend saying your name, and then something like to nice to meet you... all while making sure you get THEIR name and then use it quickly to help you remember it.

As always, it's a privilege,


Oh... :)... you guys did it again!

Oh... :)... you guys did it again!
You gave such a wonderful entertaining podcast about handshaking!
I agree with you handshaking is really a very important thing in most cultures.
If I may I would like to remark... there are cultures that it is forbidden for a man to do a handshake with a women... like in the ultraortodox jewish culture...

Koty- Thanks for the kind


Thanks for the kind words!

You're right about cultures. I often find it interesting that when cultures collide. I suppose were I on an ultra-orthodox kibbutz, I would not proffer my hand to a woman, although I am not sure if it is okay for me to proffer, since I am not OF that culture.

On the other hand, would it be okay for an ultra-orthodox man to refuse to shake the hand of a female business associate?



Thank you for this podcast (both this

Thank you for this podcast (both this podcast on handshakes and the Manager Tools podcast in general). It definitely has the level of detail I've come to expect from the Manager Tools podcast. I definitely learned a lot...the not-so-good stuff that needs improving and some 'go from good to great' lessons in there too.

Also, it helped me work out one of the issues I've personally been thinking about lately, namely the eye contact for a handshake. When I started thinking about my eye-contact several months ago, I noticed that I always broke contact to make sure that my hand ends up where it needs to be. That personal revelation caused me some concern since then and I'd been trying to figure out how to fix it...with no results. It's nice to know that at least on that point, I'm not too far out in the weeds.

Scott- Yep. It's not a problem.


Yep. It's not a problem. You're on the right track.

Thanks for the kind words, as well.


[...] But I was disappointed when I

[...] But I was disappointed when I heard this. “Drat,” I thought, “they beat me to it.” But while they were talking about it, another podcast sprung to my mind: Manager Tools. I thought, “Aha! I’ll take the Inside PR podcast and this other podcast and write a post about networking using both examples.” I was feeling pretty good about myself. Manager Tools is a great podcast. It really doesn’t have much to do with PR, per se, but it’s a great resource for working in the business world and has some really great tips. For instance, I listened - surprisingly - to the entire 45-minute podcast on The Secret to a Great Handshake (4/17/06). Forty-five minutes! It was fascinating! Well, just recently the gentlemen at Manager Tools had a fantastic show on Building a Network (5/9/06), which dovetails into the world of PR so very nicely. Whether you’re looking for a job or developing relationships with members of your key publics, this podcast is a must listen. [...]

Guys-- I am new to Manager tools and

Guys-- I am new to Manager tools and am listening to some of the historical podcasts. I do have one question about the hand shake. What do you do about the jerk who rolls his wrist over (or just extends his hand in the more of a horizontal manor) so his hand is on top. I heard that this was a sign of power but I just find it annoying.

Yeah, he's just a jerk. ;-) It's

Yeah, he's just a jerk. ;-)

It's not a sign of power at all. It's just someone attempting to put a personal flourish on something so basics that it ought to be exempt from personal flourishes. It's the equivalent of the old Miami Vice shows where they would turn their handguns sideways. Nobody teaches that, it's ineffective... but it looked cool.

So, what to do? Well, just turn your hand to meet his, following our suggestions. What becomes more important here is that you definitely work on the acceleration right before your thumb and index finger webbing meet his... nice touch he probably won't expect.

Funnily enough, of course, the moment your hands do meet, he's going to turn his 90 degrees to allow the normal course of vertical movement.

I think it's weird, and it's kind of nice that he's telling us that about himself early. Bet he's a High I... ;-)


What about the rule (probably left over

What about the rule (probably left over from the 19th century) I learned as a young man that a man never offers his hand to a woman - he waits for the woman to offer if she chooses and until she extends her hand, he leaves his unextended. That way the woman can choose whether or not shaking hands is something she is comfortable with without having to refuse a hand.

Do you think this still applies in the business world? I have noticed that some women do not offer their hands... or are they just uncomfortable at that moment because they cannot understand why I did not offer mine first like most men?


That rule ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT APPLY in the business world. It is a throwback to women being objects for men to take care of. There are some parts of chivalry which survive for good reason, but not that one. Men and women are equals in the business world. Deference of that nature would be inappropriate.


Hi everyone, This is not only about

Hi everyone,

This is not only about handshakes, but also about listening, another great topic to dig in (IMHO).
I once took part to a game, a kinf of organizational one, which worked like this: many people are in the room, and when the game begins everyone starts handshaking with someone else, telling him/her his name. Then, and here starts the fun, you must forget your name and remember the name of the colleague whom you have shaken hands with, because now this is YOUR NEW name (and viceversa).
When you shake hands with the next one, you must tell him/her your NEW name, and change istantly with that the he (or she) is telling you, and so on. So the names start spreading around in the room, passing along from each participant to another.
You can exit the room when someone shakes his hand with you and presents himself telling your real name (the one which you've started with). The game ends when the last two people tell each other their real name, but this almost never happens, because after two handshakes people start forgetting what they have to say, and so there is a great confusion!

Lesson learned: many times we don't listen to what someone else is telling us, because where are too concentrate on what we have to do (shaking hands in the right way) or to say after. Especially if you are a novice and trying hard to practice ;-)


Oliveiro- It would appear that the


It would appear that the old joke is true there as well as here: the opposite of talking is not listening, it's waiting to talk.

Great exercise!


[...] 5. Know how to conduct yourself

[...] 5. Know how to conduct yourself in an interview There are many good resources available to help prepare for job interviews. Find some lists of popular interview questions. Work out your answers in advance and rehearse them. Manager Tools has a podcast with some of the basics of interviewing (free registration required). While you’re at it, you’ll want to brush up on your meal etiquette too, since so many interview situations involve meals, as well as how to have a great handshake. [...]

Thank you for a wonderful series of

Thank you for a wonderful series of podcasts, which I have been really enjoying listening to on my commute to and from work.

Normally the majority of what you say translates easily to other countries and other corporate cultures (academia, in my case). As someone living in the UK, however, I have one slight problem with this one, which perhaps you can help me with. How heavy is a baseball bat? I dare say I could go on a hunt around some large sports shops, the next time I am in the big smoke. I am not sure, though, if I could tell the correct from the incorrect one mentioned! If anyone can suggest some easily available household alternative, I would be most grateful.


Mary- Two answers for you: first, an


Two answers for you: first, an American baseball bat that we recommend weighs about two pounds, maybe a bit more. It is 34 inches long, or so.

Therefore, a cricket bat is almost right. They tend to be a little longer, and depending upon what you get, a little heavier, in my experience. You could grip it a little away from the bottom and get the right experience.

Second, "easily available household alternatives" isn't as easy as you might think. I have gotten this question from South America, Japan, and Singapore... and well, I tried a lot of stuff and got a "?" back. The key to this, really, is the moment arm and the size of the grip area. My most likely suggestion is a broom, gripped about 2 feet from the end (yes, I know it depends on the broom, you'll have to weigh it ;-) )

Hope that helps.


This is really amazing, and it works; I

This is really amazing, and it works; I never thought that people actually pay any attention to such a thing as Handshake. But recently I had an interview, and I followed the MT's handshake and other recommended gestures. And really found how these small things create so positive vibe during the interviewing. First time in my life I got complimented on my handshake by no other than the very senior level Exec. at end of the interview he said " wow you really have a good handshake" who eventually not only offered me the job but also the offer is way beyond my expectations.
I want to THANK YOU and let every one know Yes these small thing do have a big impact.

Amohar- Sounds like it went well!


Sounds like it went well! Congratulations. The credit always goes to the man in the ring.

It's a privilege to serve you.


Mark Many thanks for that - I am


Many thanks for that - I am sure I can find a cricket bat.

And apologies for the delay in saying thanks. The perrenial examination frenzy that afflicts all academia in the UK at this time of the year has kept me from the web for any length of time.


I've been spending the past month or so

I've been spending the past month or so catching up on these great podcasts. I have even got my boss hooked! Thanks!

A couple of points on culture and handshakes as an American living abroad.

Israelis tend to hold on in their handshakes for much longer than Americans. It is considered an act of warmth to hold on. In fact, in Israel the Americans have a reputation of being "cold" because they pull away from their handshakes way too soon.

It always annoyed me that people kept holding on when I wanted to get my hand back. That was until I had an Israeli coach complain that my handshake was too short. Now I shake like the natives and it really makes a difference!

With regard to religious issues, many respected Rabbis have ruled that the embarrassment caused by rejecting a handshake is a greater sin than shaking hands with the opposite sex. So while I (a male) will not initiate a handshake with a woman, I certainly will shake her hand if she starts to stick out her hand toward me, even just a little bit.

Galesteven- We're ALWAYS


We're ALWAYS appreciative of international insights. MANY THANKS for the insights and the subtleties involved.


Double Hand Grips

I had listened to this podcast  couple yhears ago and was remined of it when I saw this photo of the first lady,

The First Lady and the Queen...

Mrs. Obama is an impressive lady...

And the queen does one on ones with the Prime Minister!

Life is good.


An Etiquette Maven discusses the incident...

If I may quote at length from Emily Post's great granddaughter, Anna: 

"This is also the perfect example of a second important lesson: The best kind of etiquette absorbs the mistakes of others; it doesn't make them feel the error of their ways. Why is that so key? For one thing, it's incredibly gracious, a sign of etiquette in action if ever there was one. For another, it gets us back to where we should have been--building a relationship--in the quickest manner possible. ...Queen Elizabeth and Michelle Obama are two of the most gracious women on the planet, and I think we can all take a leaf from their respective books: After all, etiquette is about acceptance of others and natural grace."  

Well said.  

John Hack

Quoted from:

 On a related note, the

 On a related note, the 'lighter' item on this morning's BBC Breakfast news is whether President Obama and Prime Minister Brown should refer to each other by their first name in public and, indeed, whether people in general should refer to each other by their first names or more formally.

One of the guests, Amy Le May raised a very interesting point.  Whilst referring to a man formally gives no indication of his marital status (it's always Mr) for a woman the first thing you hear is her marital status (Miss, Mrs or Ms).  Not everyone is entirely comfortable with this, and the question of keeping her pre-marriage last name or taking her husband's.  When I worked in IT support  I dreaded when one of our women staff members got married.  I was always given the task of enquiring whether she wanted her logon ID and email address changed to match her new husband's last name or wished to keep her existing ID and address.  Most of our staff were in their early to mid twenties so this was a not uncommon occurance (I was there 2.5 years and out of the about 70 staff, roughly equal female/male split, we had 14 marriages).  Most of the time it was fine but I had a couple of indignant responses each way.  We only had one male member of staff get married whilst I worked there, he actually changed his name to that of his new wife (apparently, growing up, he'd suffered a lot of teasing based on his last name).  He told us to change his ID when he told us he was getting married so I don't know if I would have bene tasked with asking him.  Probably not, though.



Skype: stephenbooth_uk

Experience if how you avoid failure, failure is what gives you experience.

What if someone is sick?

Just came across this cast, and it's great guidance.  Had an interesting experience last week related to handshakes, and wanted to get some input here.  

I interviewed an internal candidate for an opening on my team.  I already knew him, but he didn't take anything for granted - coat, tie, etc.  He presented himself as a very polished and professional candidate.  I greeted him as he came in my office, and he said he he'd shake my hand, but he had a cold and didn't want to make me sick.  I definitely appreciate this, and didn't ding him for lack of a handshake.  

But I've wondered this previously, if one is sick (but certainly not incapacitated), is it proper to refrain from shaking hands in order to avoid spreading an infection such as the cold or flu?  


Web to Web

This is a great cast. I have started listening to Manager Tools recently and I have to say that every cast I heard is - beautiful.

I had known about firm handshake but came to know about web-to-web concept from this cast. I have been practicing it for about a month now. I make a conscious effort on web-to-web as I think I was not doing it earlier. I have to tell you that it is not easy. Many times when I shake somebody hand, THEY hold back and not allow me web to web contact. Most of the time these people have dead fish handshake too.

Now the issue I am facing is if I am not allowed a good handshake I tend to immediately judge the person and even if he is in higher position than me I tend to think - "I am not sure that this thing will help me as much as he says it would. He doesn't even know how to give a good handshake." :)

May be you could do a cast of how to efficiently judge a person despite bad first impression. If you have already done that, let me know the link.