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Types of Handshakes:
How to Give Them. How to Read Them

There are many types of handshakes and ways to greet people. Some of them are the accolade, the military salute, the high five, the kisses, the bow, the wave – royal or not – and many more besides the "regular" handshake. In this article, I am going to focus on how to give a handshake and how to read the most common types of handshakes. To facilitate the reading, I will use the masculine form (he), but this content applies to women too.

How to Give a Good Handshake

According to Vedic palmistry, the palm of the hand indicates who you really are deep inside, while the fingers show only what you decide to show others about you. Since a handshake is an exchange of energy between two people, you should make sure that your palms – more than your fingers – connect to each other.

Hold your hand vertically
Hold your hand vertically in an L shape...
By holding your hand in a vertical position, fingers together while your thumb is extended and forming an L-shape with the rest of your hand, you will ensure that your palms connect. Then, you can wrap your fingers around the other person’s palm. Your arm should be slightly bent in a flexible position.

Wrap your fingers around
...Then wrap your fingers around
As you make hand contact, also make eye contact. Don’t stare but look at the other person’s eyes long enough to see the eye color, and remember to smile.

Then shake the hand two or three times, more if you are in South America. Also, if you finished a job interview and your interviewer shakes your hand five times or more, you probably got the job! Alcohol seems to influence the number of shakes: two per drink, I have been told!

Knowing how to give a proper handshake allows you to identify and read other types of handshakes.

How to Read Other Types of Handshakes

The Pusher
While this person shakes your hand, he extends his arm so that you can’t get close to him. He needs space and is not letting you in. You must give him the physical and emotional space he is asking for, if you want to be his friend.

The Puller
This is a manipulator. Before you notice anything, you will be seated or out the door, because this person is leading you – through his arm and yours – anywhere he wants. Be wary of the puller or you may end up where you don’t want to be.

The Two-Handed Handshake
During his electoral campaign, John F. Kennedy had a study done on the various types of handshakes, and discovered the two-handed handshake appears to be the warmest: the person shakes your right hand with his right hand, and uses his left hand to wrap it around your right one. You then feel a lot of warmth and support, but there may be a catch: if his left hand is staying on your hand, it is a sincere handshake. However, if the hand goes up your wrist, your arms or your elbow, he is trying to get something from you.

The Top-Handed

The Top-Handed Shake
The Top-Handed Shake
Instead of holding his hand in a vertical position, this hand shaker holds it horizontally, so that his hand is on top of yours. This means he feels superior to you. Conversely, I have met people – especially waiters and servers – who are bottom-handed. They may be waiting for a tip but, most likely, they consider themselves to be in an inferior position. Both hands need to be vertical, so that the handshake – and the relationship – is on an equal basis.

The Twister
This is a sneaky top-handed shake. The hand starts in a vertical position and, through a twist, it ends up on top of yours. The person is basically saying to you: “I’ll show you I am superior to you!” So beware, and don’t trust this person too much.

The Crusher
This person grabs your whole hand in a good handshake but squeezes your hand too hard and hurts you in the process. He actually means well and usually tries to convey his enthusiasm in the process. However, he is not aware he is crushing your hand. It may be a good idea to tell this person tactfully about the effect of his handshake. If you suspect you are a crusher, use the two-hand shake instead and you will convey the same warmth without any hurt.

There are a few types of handshakes that happen when the two palms are not touching, namely the finger squeeze, the polite pinch and the dead fish. In those three cases, the handshake is very superficial since only the fingers touch. It can be for different reasons, such as thinking of the next thing to do, fear of connecting, desire to hide your true feelings, low self-esteem, etc.

Subconsciously, those types of handshakes are sending a negative message, instead of allowing you to connect. If you recognize yourself in one of them, learn how to shake a hand properly.

The Finger Squeeze
The Finger Squeeze

The Finger Squeeze
If instead of grabbing the whole hand, essentially the palm, you hold just the fingers, you will hurt the other person’s hand, especially if he or she is wearing rings. Not only you won’t be able to connect, but you will also hurt the person. If you meet a finger squeezer, try to push your hand further so that the two palms will be in contact. If you know the person well, you may want to show them how he can give a good handshake.

The Polite Pinch

The Polite Pinch
The Polite Pinch
This handshake won’t hurt anyone because the only contact will be a little pinch somewhere on the hand. However, this handshake has no personality, no energy, and it says loud and clear: “Leave me alone, I am not interested in you!” Not the best way to connect and to show how irresistible you are!

The Dead Fish

The Dead Fish Handshake
The Dead Fish Handshake
Of all the types of handshakes, the “dead fish” is the most infamous one. The hand has no energy, there is no shake, no squeeze, not even a pinch, and it gives the feeling you are holding a dead fish instead of a hand. This handshake is synonym to low self-esteem. It is commonly found amongst inmates and people with a very low sense of self. Learning to give a good handshake cans go a long way in helping restore self-esteem. The best thing you can do with a dead fish shaker is to teach him how to increase the energy of his handshake.

For specific issues pertaining to handshakes, such as ethnic background, women, sweaty palms, germs, etc., please read my article entitled Social Skills and Diversity in the Workplace.

As you can see, there is a lot more to a handshake than just shaking a hand. Every time you shake a hand, you are sending a strong message about yourself, so make sure it is a positive one.

As a job recruiter once said, “A good handshake won’t necessarily ensure you get the job, but a bad one will certainly reduce your chances to succeed!” So shake it well!