How to shake hands


How's your handshake? Firm and confident, or not so much? Melissa Kirsch, author of The Girl's Guide to Absolutely Everything, demonstrates how to shake hands.

How to shake hands
  • First of all, meet the other person's eyes with good eye contact. Don't look down, don't give a come hither look.
  • Shake firmly, extend thumb up, hand parallel to the floor
  • Don't pump vigorously. One good shake is all you should do.
  • If the other person won't let go, pull away firmly when you're ready.
  • If your palm is sweaty, discreetly wipe before extending in handshake.

KATRINA: Hi I’m Katrina Szish for Nothing makes a bad first impression like a bad handshake. Here to show us how to avoid that pitfall is Melissa Kirsch, the author of The Girl's Guide To Absolutely Everything. Thanks for joining us Melissa.

MELISSA: Thanks for having me.

KATRINA: One thing you say is most important about a handshake has nothing to do with the hands.

MELISSA: It’s in the gaze. You don’t want to be giving that come-hither glance. You don’t want to be looking down at your papers on the desk or anything. You want to be making eye contact with the person that you’re meeting.

KATRINA: Okay now tell me about the grip. Some people have spaghetti hands. Some people are trying to hard to crush you. What’s the proper balance?

MELISSA: We want parallel fingers, strong hand, strong arm—


MELISSA: Reach in, grip.


MELISSA: No shaking. Just one grip like this.

KATRINA: Okay so no shaking.


KATRINA: ‘Shaking hands’ doesn’t mean shaking my hand.

MELISSA: Exactly. It’s not Hands Across America. It’s not, you know, Red Rover. It’s one shake.

KATRINA: It’s not like, ‘Hi! Nice to meet ya!’

MELISSA: No violence. No, we don’t want to rip anybody’s arm off. It’s just one shake down like this.

KATRINA: Okay. Now I know some people tend to give a very little delicate handshake.

MELISSA: No mincing handshakes. We all shook hands with somebody who has all of the moxy of a dead trout. You want parallel fingers, tight, strong, muscular arm and hand.

KATRINA: What about the shaking? It’s called a handshake. Some people really like to shake their hands up and down.

MELISSA: It really should be called a hand grip. You don’t want any pumping, any flailing. It’s one quick grip.

KATRINA: Now what if somebody starts pumping and you’re trying just to grip? How do you stop them from their over-zealous handshaking?

MELISSA: Pull that hand out of there.

KATRINA: Just get out of the situation.

MELISSA: Yes. Exactly. It may be uncomfortable for a moment, but get yourself out of the situation.

KATRINA: Now this last question I think is something everyone must admit has happened to them even though they don’t want to: you want to shake someone’s hands, but your hands are kind of clammy. What do you do?

MELISSA: It happens to the best of us. A discreet rubbing off of the palms on the skirt or the pants will alleviate that problem.

KATRINA: But, of course, you don’t want your other hand shaker to see that you are wiping your palms.

MELISSA: Exactly. It has to be a stealth move.

KATRINA: Discretion is key.


KATRINA: Okay well before I say goodbye let’s practice a perfect handshake. Hopefully I’ll do this right.

[Katrina and Melissa shake hands]

Thank you for joining us Melissa.

MELISSA: Thanks for having me.

meet theexpert
  • Melissa Kirsch

    Melissa Kirsch Author, The Girl's Guide To Absolutely Everything Melissa Kirsch is the author of The Girl’s Guide to Absolutely Everything (Workman, 2007). She has been writing professionally for and about young women since 1998, when she was an editor at one of the first sites for girls on the Web. more about this expert »

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