In the business scene, physical contact does matter.  The commonly accepted physical form of greeting is the handshake.  Handshaking originally started from male combatants meeting each other, to assure each other that their meeting would be non-aggressive.  (You could have seen General Pervez Musharraf offering handshake with our PM during the SARAAC Summit).

While kisses and hugs are taboo in the area of business, handshaking goes places.  You are evaluated by the quality of your handshake.  What is the proper form in shaking hands?

Ø      Keep your four fingers together

Ø      Hold the thumb wide open and up

Ø      Slide your hand into the other person’s hand, in such a way that the web of skin between thumb and forefinger touches the other person’s.

A good handshake is one that is pumped from the elbow.  The handshake is firm, but not bone crushing.  The handshake should last for an optimum of 3 seconds and then released.

There are occasions when handshaking is appropriate.  These could be when meeting someone you haven’t seen for quite a while.  Moreover, when you meet a person for the first time, then you can give a friendly handshake.  This could be either with business contacts or with friends.  When you are wishing someone good-bye at the conclusion of a business or social function, you can give a handshake.

There could be occasions when NOT shaking hands could be appropriate.  These could be while meeting your parents or friends on an every day basis casually.  The business of men meeting women also involves handshaking.

This is where first impressions really count.  This behavioural event, along with your appearance, could give the other person an evaluation of your personality.

What is involved in a handshake?  There is much excess of a mere meeting of hands.  Going by the sense of touch alone, the early books on etiquette distinguished firm handshakes from limp ones, cool handshakes from warm ones and self-assertive handshakes from timid ones.  Moreover, it is only in recent times that scientists have made a study of the business of handshaking.  These are studied from the viewpoint of how your personality is judged.

At the University of Alabama, four investigators studied the handshakes of 112 men and women.  The investigators consisted of two men and two women.  These investigators chose eight qualities by which the handshakes could be classified.  These included  –

Ø      Dryness

Ø      Temperature

Ø      Texture

Ø      Strength

Ø      Vigour

Ø      Completeness of grip

Ø      Duration and

Ø      Eye contact

These eight qualities of handshakes were correlated, without preconceived notions, to the personality characteristics of extraversion, agreeableness, defensiveness/neuroticism, openness to experience, study and conscientiousness, shyness or emotional expressiveness and positive or negative feelings.

What were the findings?

The women who were rated as more liberal, intellectual and open to new experiences had a firm handshake.  These was in contrast to women who ha a less firm handshake and were perceived as less open.

The finding was opposite for men; those who had a less firm handshake were perceived as being more open to new experiences.

Seen as a whole, handshaking carries more impact than a mere greeting.  It can function as a barometer of personality and state of mind.  Women who exhibit firm handshakes are sometimes seen as giving a negative impression.  Yet, it is the sole universally accepted form of business physical contact.


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