Handshaking is perhaps the most widely recognized of greetings worldwide, in both Western and non-Western societies. While on the surface a handshake appears to be a warm, friendly gesture, this can be a superficial reading. It’s important to recognize the different meanings of handshakes in different situations, and to be able to use them to your advantage.

The history of the handshake dates back to the 5th century B.C. in Greece. It was a symbol of peace, showing that neither person was carrying a weapon. During the Roman era, the handshake was actually more of an arm grab. It involved grabbing each other’s forearms to check that neither man had a knife hidden up his sleeve. Some say that the shaking gesture of the handshake started in Medieval Europe. Knights would shake the hand of others in an attempt to shake loose any hidden weapons.

Today, handshakes are the standard greeting in business and even personal situations. You’re probably not looking for weapons. But there’s still a lot to be learned about the motives and beliefs of others handshake style!

The Palm-Down Shake

When someone shakes your hand and turns their palm down, they want to dominate the interaction.

When you receive a palm-down shake you can move both of your hands back to the Equal Shake. And you could make the decision if you want to work with the other person or not. They are most interested in getting their way!

The Palm-Up Shake

When someone shakes your hand and turns their palm up, they want to be welcoming and pleasing and will most likely do exactly what you want.

When you receive a palm-up shake, you can move it to the Equal Shake position to show that you want to be on even ground. In your dealings with palm-up shakers, make sure that you go for a win-win. They will be easily persuaded to do what you want!

The Equal Shake

When you shake hands and the clasp is vertical, it says that you’re meeting on common ground and want a nice, even interaction. You can easily turn a palm-down or palm-up attempt into an Equal Shake if necessary.

There’s nothing to do about this. It’s what you want!

The Fist Bump

This shows a symbol of power and raising fists together to fight in unity. Its origins are as a secret handshake between soldiers.

If someone offers you their fist, just bump it with yours. It’s more awkward to change course once the fist is offered instead of the palm. Plus, you want to be cool, don’t you?

The Dead Fish Handshake

A limp handshake tells people that you don’t have a backbone and will do anything they want without any argument. If you receive a dead fish handshake, it could indicate that the person or couple is going to be agreeable to your offers.

If you are giving someone else a dead fish handshake, it’s likely you don’t even know it! As a rule of thumb, when you shake another person’s hand, just match their grip and you’ll let them know you mean business.

The Nice Firm Grip

The perfect handshake is firm, but not too firm.

When you get a handshake that matches the firmness of your grip, you know that the other person wants to meet you on common ground. If your grip is less firm, be sure to match theirs (unless you find yourself in the situation below!).

The Bone Cruncher

When you receive a handshake that’s way too hard, you know that the other person is trying to dominate the situation or trying to be someone they’re not.

A handshake like this lets you know who you’re working with and their deep, unconscious motivations. Be careful! They may be friendly on the surface but you’ll know what’s really on their mind.

What’s your style?


Resource: What Your Handshake Style Says About You