Part of business is still networking; although a few years beyond the outbreak of COVID, it’s certainly a different world. In this blog (parts A & B), I’m going to cover:
- How to correctly shake hands
- How to shake hands with women
- How to avoid shaking hands (for health reasons)
- Online networking tips
- Using names
- Title requests
- General body language tips in networking.
I should say that I’ve been business networking for decades and have in fact won ‘Networker of the Year’ four times. Yes, I have picked up a thing or two along the way, despite some ‘horror’ stories initially. So, onto today’s article:
How to Correctly Shake Hands
In business (unless you’re in an industry that has pretty much said no to handshaking), this has come back somewhat. It’s a sign of goodwill, honesty, respect and often done at the beginning and conclusion of business. IF you are going to shake hands, then let’s do it right.
- Ensure your hands are clean and dry (definitely not sweaty)
- Come in straight – four fingers pointed towards the person, thumb right up
- Step in and be sure to maintain eye contact
- Meet all the way; thumb webbing to thumb webbing
- Smile / greet the person
- Hold the hand firmly, matching the other person’s pressure. This is not a test of who has the stronger grip; a firm handshake means firm, not hard.
- Shake approx. 3 times and then release and take a half step back
- I recommend you avoid the double handshake/handover (I call it the US politician handshake) where you cover the other person’s hand with your other. Also, avoid the limp fish handshake or twisting to have your hand on top of the other person’s. The spirit of the handshake is not to be showing dominance.
- Variances for the very young or very old should be only the reduction of pressure. Come in somewhat more gently and if their grip is slight, don’t exceed that pressure. Additionally, be aware of cultural differences; for example, women from Arab countries frequently do not shake men’s hands. See below tips.
Shaking Hands With a Woman
- Do not exclude women from this business ritual; whether you agree or not personally, women are in business, politics, positions of power and on Boards.
- If you are unsure, wait for the woman to initiate. Particularly if you don’t know the person or their culture. The confident businesswoman will step in … and that’s your signal that she intends to shake. If she instead bows her head (as do the Japanese) or holds her right hand over her heart (as done by women in the UAE) then follow her example.
- If you’re a bigger and stronger man, then start with an ever so slight reduction in pressure than your norm. If she meets you with a firm grip, meet hers equally. As a business coach and business owner who has been around for decades, I’ve shaken many hands. When a man (or woman) comes in and just takes the tips of my fingers it’s disappointing. When it’s a man, I feel I’m not being taken as an equal and it puts a sour note on the meeting. If it’s a woman, I don’t feel they are serious about business or are inexperienced. Yes, I realise it may be a lack of education, so hence I’m writing this article.
- You wouldn’t hold a man’s hand for more than 3 shakes (unless posing for a photo), the same goes with a woman. If you hold it longer, it will likely feel like a flirt and be inappropriate.
- Remember the purpose of a handshake is to instil goodwill; not play a dominant role. I once shook hands with an ex-marine who did congratulate me for my firm handshake, but if I’m honest, I think he was a moment off crushing my fingers. I could tell he was clearly testing me; but again, that is not the purpose of shaking hands.
How to Avoid Shaking Hands
Many people now avoid this tradition and that’s ok. Medical professionals especially avoid it; they know just how many germs are on the average person’s hand. Here are some tips on how to avoid the shake (or hug):
- If you have premises which have a huge intake of people or where policy (such as a medical centre) a ‘No Shaking Sign’ may be suitable for the door/entry.
- If you’re going to an event with friends (I did this not that long ago just before my son’s wedding) you can put a message in the Facebook group saying “Just alerting you I’m not in hug mode this weekend; I’ve got my son’s wedding next weekend and don’t want to take any COVID chances”. These days everyone is respectful and it avoided that awkward rejection of a friend’s hug.
- If you are at an event and a person steps in to shake hands, rather than just letting them hang, or eventually feeling guilty and belatedly shaking, step straight in with a smile and say “I’m doing the elbow bump now” and offer your elbow. They will need to adjust, but your warm smile should allay any discomfort.
- Adopt the ‘stop, drop, nod’ action. You stop in front of the person, drop your hands to your sides and then move them behind your back to gently clasp and then nod to the person. Not quite a low bow like the Japanese. In my view, hands gently behind your back is better than in your pocket.
- If it’s a setting where drinks are present, keep your drink in your right hand (I used to always keep in my left in order to be free to shake hands), and then offer an elbow.
- Likewise, if you’re in an office setting, clasping folders, books, laptop in your right arm, keeps your hands busy.
- Stand back (keeping that 1.5m distance at the same time) and just do a small wave. I don’t think ‘jazz hands’ is the place for business events. Alternatives are ‘The Namaste’ where you do a small bow with your hands pressed flat together. You can also try the ‘Tip of a Hat’ with your finger. Reminds me of James Bond. An alternative is also the ‘Vulcan Salute’ (you can possibly drop the ‘Live long and prosper’ mantra) 😊. Thumbs up is another option, although depends on who you’re with, I believe.
- Another alternative is the fist bump; good between workmates; it’s not 100% hygienic, but far better than an open handshake.
- As mentioned above, the Emirati (UAE) alternative (particularly for their women) is smiling, placing your right hand flat over your heart (like you’re giving allegiance to the flag) and a slight nod of the head.
- My final tip here, if you get caught, have a small hand sanitiser in your pocket or on your keys. You can easily be conscious to not touch your face and sanitise promptly. I’ve gotten good at opening that small flip bottle with one hand, in my pocket and dropping a little in my palm. I then remove my hand and rub my hands together. Quick, discreet and effective.
To Hug or Not to Hug
- If it’s business, then really you shouldn’t be hugging anyone unless you know them very well and for a reasonable period of time. In fact, they might be a business associate, but you almost think of them as a friend.
- During COVID, I would often ask “Good for a hug?” That gives the other person the option to politely decline.
- These days, I do turn my face away, for hygiene reasons. I notice some people kiss the cheek first and then hug; I don’t do that part, I just hug. I save the kissy-hugs for my children.
In my next article part B, I’m going to cover:
- Online networking tips and etiquette
- Using names
- Title requests
- General body language tips.
There goes some basic tips you didn’t think were worth mentioning until now. Check this page for my Business Coaching Services.