The Lost Art of the Handshake

And why it really matters.

The Lost Art of the Handshake

You wouldn’t think this sort of article would be necessary, would you?  Unfortunately, it is.  It seems that men shaking hands is a bit of a lost art.

Consider the handshake.  Historical customs indicate that the handshake is commonly done upon meeting, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, or completing an agreement. In sports or other competitive activities, it is also done as a sign of good sportsmanship. Its purpose is to convey trust, balance, and equality.

Let’s Start With the Basics

Handshake 1This is a handshake.

Handshake 2This is not.

Handshake 3Neither is this.

Handshake 5I don’t even know what this is!

Why does a handshake matter?

The importance of a good, strong, firm handshake cannot be overstated. When you shake hands with a leader you figure out pretty quickly what kind of person that you’re dealing with. If you are dealing with a confident person, a serious person, and a person not to be “trifled” with you will receive a solid, firm and strong handshake and you will receive direct eye-contact. If you experience something other than that, you may have doubts about the person you are greeting.

Consider this as a primer:

  • Try to lead and be the first to offer a handshake and an introduction in a new social setting. But this isn’t a contest or a race.
  • Make eye-contact when you shake someone’s hand. I mean real contact.
  • Use a good, firm grip. Never give a limp greeting to a man. But, again, this is not a contest to see who can crush the other guy’s hand first. But be sure to reduce the firmness and grip as needed for the elderly and for women.
  • Offer the handshake at the beginning of a meeting and again at the end. This is especially true for business settings.
  • Take the opportunity to offer a handshake to male family members, business partners, male friends, and people you meet for the first time. And be sure to exchange vocal greetings and names as you do so.
  • Never remain seated for a handshake. This is a sign of disrespect.
  • Two, three or four good pumps and break contact and you are done. It is just that simple.

I shook hands with a young man in our church recently.  His name is Scott.  He knows how to shake hands.  He squared his shoulders to me.  He gripped my hand.  He looked me in the eye.  He said “Good morning”.  We chatted briefly. We both moved on to greet others in the foyer (or the vestibule for you old-timers).

Like I said.  He knows how to do it.  Maybe it is because he is in sales.  Maybe, just maybe, it is because he is a man of integrity and he is communicating something to me and to others in his handshake.

What is the leadership principle?

It is this.  As leaders and men of integrity it is our duty to offer the handshake and do so with integrity, dignity and grace. 

Handshake 6

One final thought on the handshake.  Last night we saw one of my favorite activities in all of professional sports.  We saw the Stanley Cup skated around the ice by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

(For the record, I am not a Penguin fan. And have not been since my years living in the Washington DC area and watching them obliterate the Capitals every year in the first round of the playoffs. Sort of like this year. But, I digress.).

But before that happened.  You saw something that you do not see in any other sport like you see in the NHL.  You saw guys who have literally fought each other tooth and nail to beat their opponent to win Lord Stanley’s Cup line up at both ends of the ice.  And one by one they will slowly skate past one another and they will shake their opponents hands.  They were gracious in victory and and their opponents were equally gracious in defeat.  And if you are a man, and that doesn’t give you chills to see that display of deep respect for one another, then you may need a little more help than we can offer you.


Photo credit: / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: mrtopp / / CC BY-NC
Photo credit: slidingsideways / <a
Photo credit: hakonthingstad / / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: tiny_tear / / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: Dave McLean / / CC BY-NC-SA

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leader -|- Follower -|- Guide

I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.