A hand shake is perhaps the first sign of communication when person meet one on one. The way you shake your hands says a lot about who you are and in what frame of mind you are about to attend the meeting. Handshakes are used commonly in formal settings when a meeting is about to begin or end, or as part of an introductory round.
They date back to the cavemen who used to put up their hands when greeting each other to show hands free of weapons, intending friendliness. Over time, the greeting signal changed to taking each other’s hand showing a warm welcome. A body language enthusiast can spot several different types in what most of us conceive as a simple greeting gesture. Perhaps the best study of handshakes would be politicians greeting each other in front of cameras, each struggling to stand on the left side or to gain the dominant upper hand.
NEUTRAL HANDSHAKE: When both parties extend their hands and shake on an equal level with no one hand above the other, it is a neutral handshake.
DOMINANT HANDSHAKE: When one person extends his hand by offering his palm down, either he is of a dominant personality by nature or is consciously trying to signal his intention of decision making in the forthcoming discussion or negotiation. These type of conscious dominant handshakes are most commonly seen in power struggles by politicians in front of camera. The way to counter a dominant handshake is to hold the dominating person’s arm while shaking his hand.
SUBMISSIVE HANDSHAKE: Responding to a palms-down dominating hand would be a submissive hand, indicating an easy going or submissive personality. It indicates to the counterparty your willingness to give in to demands across the table. Also, the handshake should be firm. If you offer your hand too softly, it indicates submissiveness.
WET FISH HANDSHAKE: Merely offering fingers rather than the full hand or a limp hand results in an awkward hand shake. This might be done by an unwilling female forced into a handshake by a male. Or when the intention to shake hands is not expressed very decisively.
HANDSHAKE WITH FEMALES: Most of the times when greeting a person of the opposite sex, it is difficult to judge whether a handshake is acceptable to the female. It is best for the female to offer the hand. A female willing to shake hands shows an openness to try new things. Too soft a handshake by a female is not considered positively by males. If a female is offering you a handshake, match the firmness of her handshake. Like men, they too don’t like clumsy handshakes.
HANDSHAKE FUMBLE: When a hand offered is withdrawn too quickly, the other person offering his hand to shake would be left with his hand dangling in air. You would again offer your hand by which time he would have withdrawn, hence leading to the handshake fumble. The best way to avoid this is to hold out you hand only in situations where you are sure the other party is not hostile. In case the person has agreed to meet you rather unwillingly, it is best to nod in greeting and wait for the person to offer a handshake. On neutral grounds, remember to hold out your hand long enough to allow the other person to react.
A handshake by itself is not sufficient to show a warm greeting. One has to match it with a genuine smile and look the other person in the eye while greeting. These gestures together show a positive attitude going into the meeting and make the henceforth conversation easier.