I’ve had this same experience several times: I’m introduced to an awesome person, maybe someone higher up on the ladder than me, or a friend of a friend I’ve heard a lot about, and I immediately light up at the sight of him. He’s smiling too and I can’t wait to sit down and chat. I reach out to eagerly shake his hand and bam, I get slapped with a dead-fish handshake. It’s like he’s not even trying to hold his own, and immediately my impression of him changes. Suddenly, he’s not as great as I’d imagined.
Now, no one’s going to judge you only on how you shake hands, and I certainly didn’t have bad experiences with getting to know these people after the fact—but it does affect how people initially perceive you. And in some cases, those few seconds of interaction, even before you get a chance to speak, could cost you a job offer.
So, when I came across a recent Inc. article. titled “Science Says That Millennials Have Terrible Handshakes. Do You?”, I, of course, had a minor panic attack. Was I doing it all wrong? How many times have I turned someone off by my handshake? Why was I being targeted because of my age, we’re all born with the same kind of hands, right?
The study it references, previously featured in The Independent, states that individuals between the ages 20 to 34 have weaker grips than the same age group 30 years ago. It also suggests a gender shift (which, as a woman, I was thrilled to hear about), where men and women now are both equally weaker than their past counterparts (not as thrilled to hear about).
Does this mean all Millennials have poor handshakes and are doomed for failure in any formal interaction? No, of course not, but it’s certainly something to be aware of. Many of us don’t think enough about our body language and how we present ourselves, yet our body language is often the first impression we give people. So while you may be incredibly skilled and talented, people might doubt your credentials if you barely brush the other person’s fingertips when going for the shake.
Obviously handshake strength isn’t the prime indicator of success—a bone-crushing grip is just as painful as a flimsy one—so I’d probably take this study with a few grains of salt. But, just to be sure, test your best try on a friend and have him give you an honest opinion. It can’t hurt (pun totally intended).