Q&A with Carey Sue Vega
Even in the digital age, a good handshake as important as ever
Q: A critical component of the first-impression in business is a good handshake. What is the history of the handshake?
A: The handshake dates back as early as 5 B.C. and originates from men demonstrating they come in “peace” and weren't planning to draw their weapons.
Q: Should women shake hands?
A: Now that we know the history of the handshake, we know that historically it would have been reserved for men. Fast forward to 2013 and for some women, they're still left to wonder “Should I or shouldn't I?” Yes, in the U.S., women should definitely feel confident shaking hands. With that being said, many women are never really taught how to shake hands. So let's break down the anatomy of the shake: your hand meets the other person's hand at the webbing of the thumb (or the duck's foot). A couple of pumps up and down for a few short seconds (we don't want to look like an Oklahoma oil derrick). And don't forget to make eye contact with the person with whom you're meeting and shaking hands.
Q: What else should people keep in mind when shaking hands?
A: If you're physically able, always stand to shake hands, or at least attempt to stand. “Bottoms up” — get your bottom up and out of the chair to shake. If you're behind your desk, do your best to come out from behind the desk, so nothing is in between you and the person you are meeting.
Q: At networking events, people often are caught with their hands full. How can people still manage to shake hands?
A: If you'll remember to hold your plate or drink in your left hand, your right hand will be free and ready to shake.
Q: Are there different types of handshakes?
A: The nontraditional handshakes consist of everything from a fist-bump, man-hug or high five. There's also the “politician shake,” where the other person cups your hand with their right hand — which is a little more of an intimate, or personal handshake, kind of like a kiss on the cheek. You also have the wet noodle, the limp fish, or the bone crusher — this is NOT an opportunity to show us how strong you are! Nothing beats a good old-fashioned, firm handshake.
Q: Should people always shake hands?
A: Some cultures have different theories on the handshake and initial greetings. If you're traveling abroad, or doing business with people from another culture, do your research and find out: should you shake, should you bow or should you kiss on the cheek. Otherwise, you may find yourself making a blunder that could put your business deal in jeopardy before you even have a chance to say “Hello, my name is ...”
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER