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Tips for an Awesome Handshake

This is it. The big moment. The crucial first impression. The introduction that could close the deal. You extend your arm and suddenly feel very self-conscious about your handshake. Was it too hard? Too weak? Did you do that weird thing where you awkwardly grip fingers instead? Have you always done a three-pump shake?

A confident and excellent handshake is something that every business person should have. The simple customary act instantly conveys a lot about your sincerity and competence. These tips will help you ace the handshake every time:

Make eye contact and smile. If you’re looking around, you’ll seem distracted and aloof. If you’re staring at your hands, you’ll come off as insecure. Eye contact and a warm smile is exactly what you need.

Get the positioning right. The lower joint of your thumb (the tissue between your thumb and forefinger) should be nestled into the lower joint of their thumb. Then make sure the rest of your hand is wrapped around theirs. An easy way to remember this is “bump and squeeze.” Bump the joints, squeeze the hand.

Be the first to engage and disengage. You never know the style of your handshake partner until you’re actually shaking hands. Will they be aggressive or timid? Brief or lingering? You can eliminate the guessing by being the first to initiate and the first to release.

Don’t go crazy with the shaking. One pump is plenty, and never exceed more than two. Everyone has had those handshakes that make you feel like your arm is experiencing an earthquake. They aren’t fun.

Try not to get competitive. If you feel like you need to assert dominance or compensate for your status by crushing the other person’s hand, stop it. It doesn’t make you seem powerful. It makes you seem impolite.

But whatever you do, don’t be a “dead fish.” This is the lowest of lows when it comes to handshakes. If you’ve dealt with a cringe-inducing limp handshake, you’ll understand why. If you need to, ask a friend or coworker to shake your hand and rate your level of firmness.