Dear ladies, dear gentlemen, you all have encountered it: the handshake is often one of the first contacts we have with somebody we just met. It is important to make it perfect. I propose the protocol to achieve a positive and successful first impression in every situation.

We start with a poll: let see how is your knowledge about handshakes.

When do you shake hands?

It may be either only at the first meeting, like in America or the United Kingdom, or every time you meet on formal occasions, as it is the case in many countries, especially for two men. In the social sphere, men would also shake hands, and two women as well if they are in formal circumstances.

Who initiates the handshake?

In a business environment, the most senior person initiates it. In a social environment, the lady has the privilege to choose how does she want to be greeted: handshake, cheek-kissing, just ahead gesture. If two ladies are greeting each other, the oldest has the choice.

How to place your arm?

Is this correct?

No, you cannot outstretch our arm so far, it would mean you want to keep the other person at distance from you. You should let around half a meter distance between you.

How to place your hand?

Not too high or not too low like these photos:

The better is to remain at elbow level

Beware as well, the palm of your hand shall not be facing down like this:

If somebody gives you such a hand it is often the sign he/she will try to dominate you. You may have a hand facing up, which is an opening sign, or simply a vertical hand, which shows confidence and seriousness.

Beware also to avoid the “dead fish” a flaccid hand. You need to give a firm shake. Not too strong of course, but you have to show confidence. The other person must feel your finger under his hand, giving the impression you are reliable.

How many shakes shall you do?

Avoid multiple handshakes:

It is annoying for the one receiving it and gives an impression of excessive enthusiasm. Rather do two or three shakes:

What could you do with your left hand?

You have two options. Either you let it hang on your side, which is totally normal and acceptable, or you place it under the shaking hands, to show faith in the meeting, but never over them! You would give an impression to be too protective the other person. This is acceptable only from a person who is much more senior than the other.

Your facial expression

You shall look at the person in the eyes, smile with an open face, and you say the appropriate greetings words: “How do you do, my name is Guillaume”, “Good morning, it is such a pleasure meeting you today”.

Voilà, I hope now none of you will ever feel embarrassed when it comes to shaking someone’s hand. If you would like to learn more about business and social etiquette, have questions, or want to organize a class at your office you are more than welcome to write to us!