Your handshake can be too weak or too strong; too wet, or too long. From there to here and from here to there, funny handshakes are everywhere.

I was with my sister Deb (Dr. Deborah Boehm-Davis) just a few weeks ago. It was just after graduation ceremonies. She is the Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University. Her hand was bruised and sore from all the shaking—or should I say, all the bad handshakes!

So I thought National Handshake Day would be the perfect time to talk about the most annoying handshake habits: from the kind that leave you bruised and aching, to the kind that make you feel the need to wash your hands. I’m sure you’ve experienced some of these:


1. The Dead Fish Shake

The limp, weak handshake that makes you feel like you’ve just picked up a dead fish. When shaking a limp hand, be sure to loosen your grip!


2. The Death Grip Shake

The handshake that grabs on and squeezes until your fingers turn purple and you feel like they’re going to fall off. You might have to shake your wrist a couple of times afterward to get your blood pumping again. This type of handshake is usually a hint about the person’s need to be in control.


3. The Short-Fingered Shake

This person seems afraid to commit to the shake and doesn’t extend their fingers enough for you to make good contact. Try to lean in with your body to create a web-to-web connection with your hands.


4. The Double Pump Shake

Just when you think the handshake is about to end, the shaker pumps your hand not just once, but twice before letting go. It might remind you of the secret handshake you and your friends used as children. This one is usually due to cultural differences.


5. The Lingerer Shake

This person just doesn’t want to let go, even when you loosen your grip. When you pull away, try to use your hand for something specific: to grab a drink or your phone, for example.


6. The “I Need a Towel” Shake

Shaking hands with a person who has sweaty palms will leave you looking for a napkin or towel or running to the nearest restroom. Keep in mind that for some people the sweatiness is very difficult to control, particularly if they are under stress. If you are the one with the sweaty problem, there are products to reduce hand sweat.


Now, How to Do it Right

Your handshake says a lot about you. It may be the first impression you make on someone. A strong, confident handshake is an important business tool, and it’s easy to master. Here are six basic tips to improve your grip:

  1. Smile and make eye contact with the person first.
  2. If you are seated, stand up. It’s a sign of respect. Then step toward the person.
  3. While stepping forward, extend your right hand for the shake. North American etiquette says that you always offer your right hand. If you’re in a situation where you’ll be meeting new people, try to keep your right hand free.
  4. Create a firm grip by making web-to-web contact. If you accidentally grab the fingers instead, just adjust your grip.
  5. End the handshake in three to four seconds, or when the other person loosens their grip.
  6. If your palms are sweating, discreetly wipe them on a napkin or your leg before extending your hand for a shake.


In our global society, it’s very important to be aware of cultural differences. Handshakes do vary by culture. For example, a handshake in Japan is limper than an American handshake. If you are traveling to another country, brush up on the local handshake etiquette before you go. If you are from another culture, but doing business in North America or mostly with North Americans, follow the rules I prescribed above. If you want to learn more about this, listen to my episode on North American Business Handshaking.


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This article was originally published on Quick and Dirty Tips. It has been republished here with permission.


Photo of dead fish handshake courtesy of Shutterstock.