Whilst on the subject (of handshakes), remarks by Professor Peter Piot on Desert Island Discs this morning made fascinating – and poignant – listening.
He is Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an expert on HIV and Ebola.
On a recent trip to Sierra Leone he noticed that the local people have developed new conventions for greeting – the ‘Ebola shake’ – in order to avoid the touching of hands which, in the presence of Ebola, can be deadly.
Men are greeting each other by touching elbows; Women, a touch on the dress.
He emphasised what a significant change this was in a culture where “touch is huge” and making a physical connection when you greet someone is deeply rooted.
It will be interesting to see if this marks a permanent change or whether, after the epidemic, people return to shaking hands.
You can listen to the clip here, and the entire programme here.
And incidentally (I’m just discovering this subject is huge!), listen to how campaigner and supreme networker Julia Cleverdon’s “fingers itch every time I arrive at a gathering” here.
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Getting out and about in the New Year has got me thinking about handshakes. We all know how important first impressions are – so how can you make the best first impression with your handshake?
It’s seems the subject is fraught with insecurity – according to a survey for Chevrolet (quoted by The Daily Mail) some 70% of people said they lacked confidence about their ability to give a good handshake.
So, gathering together some advice (including from etiquette international) – How to shake hands with aplomb:
First things first
- Use the right hand
- Keep the fingers together with the thumb open and up
- Extend your hand forward to the other person’s so that thumb and forefingers meet
- Squeeze firmly, but not bone-crushingly (!). The object is to convey trust and reassurance, not overbearing dominance
- If the other person offers a very limp hand, consider giving a gentle squeeze; he/she may take this as a cue to grip more firmly
- If you are sitting down, stand up before extending your hand (unless you are both sitting at a table)
- Leave your left hand open by your side; don’t leave it in your pocket – a clear signal of lack of interest
How long should a handshake last?
- Shake hands by creating and up and down motion by raising your hand from the elbow a couple of times so that the handshake lasts about 3 seconds.
- Release after the shake, even if you are continuing to introduce yourselves. More than three ‘shakes’ begins to suggest ‘psycho’; or extreme nervousness.
- Do not pump the hand (‘unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand” – Tom Chiarella)
Whilst you are shaking hands
- Maintain eye contact with the other person
- Offer an appropriate verbal greeting e.g. ‘Very pleased to meet you.” [Sidebar: classically, the correct answer to the question ‘How do you do?’ is to repeat the question. However, I find this a bit formal for most purpose and prefer a “Very well thank you; And yourself..?” or something along those lines. Naturally I say ‘Very well’ even if feeling at death’s door.]
- Sweaty palms
- Limp-wristed grip
- Extending fingers only
To prevent clammy hands:
- Wash your hands with soap and water beforehand
- Consider applying a spray of antiperspirant once or more a day, and/or using alcohol-based wipes
- Drink plenty of water
If you are at an event with drinks, hold the drink in the left hand to avoid giving a cold, wet handshake
“You can tell the character of a person by their handshake.” Kathy Magliato. But beware: giving a proper handshake can also be learned and deployed by the bounder — “I have twice met Jeffrey Archer, and on both occasions was struck by the firmness of his handshake – and the way he looked me straight in the eye, too.” Craig Brown
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