How to read the intent behind a person’s handshake (or how to promote yourself as a pompous bitch thru your shake)

// October 10th, 2012 // Science


HandshakePsychological studies indicate that much can be gleaned from a person’s handshake, especially when it’s the first time you’ve met the person and are forming that oh-so-important first impression. Psychologists say a person forms their impression of you in the first 5-10 seconds after they meet you and that once formed in the person’s mind, it is hard to change. A handshake is thus, very important.

The rules of a handshake are pretty simple – stand for the handshake, square shoulders to the person to show confidence, the person of higher authority offers the handshake to the person of lower authority, web of hand meets web of other person’s hand, make direct eye contact, firm grip, shake several times, blah, blah, blah. However, what do variations from these “handshake rules” tell us? Can you purposely promote an impression of yourself to someone with only a handshake? What can you glean from another person’s handshake? Let the black magic begin. Here are a few surefire clues to a person’s tendencies or intentions when shaking hands (and how to counter them).

The manipulation shake

A person who overcompensates and grips too hard is attempting to convey confidence or in some cases, to signal dominance. Likewise, a person who pulls you toward them or holds on to the handshake too long is attempting to intimidate you. This is known as the “manipulation shake” and is a sign to beware – they may have a few tricks up their sleeve. In such an instance, smile broadly and return a hard handshake.

The palm downward handshake

Similarly, a person who turns their palm downward during the handshake is indicating a desire to dominate you. In these situations, simply turn the palm back to the parallel position to show them you will not comply with their request.

The kiss of death handshake

A fingertip handshake signals passivity, submission or aversion to working hard. This handshake is also known as the “kiss of death” when making a first impression. Similarly, turning your palm upward during a handshake signals a state of submission – do not do it unless you are into bondage.

The light handshake

A light handshake indicates “I’m indifferent, leave me alone”. It is a surefire sign of weakness too. Avoid the urge to crush their hand in return.


The aversion to intimacy shake

A person who has a dislike for handshakes will release their grip quickly. This implies that they want to avoid intimacy and prefer to keep you at a distance. Similarly, a person who keeps their body far away from you and leans into the handshake prefers to be left alone and is indicating that they do not want to get close to you. Treat them gently.

The two-handed handshake

The two-handed handshake, where the opposite hand clasps across the other person’s hand, is famous amongst politicians. It signals one-upmanship, especially when used the first time you have met. On the other hand, if it is someone you know well then it may signal closeness. Tough to counter attack. Just look them in the eye, smile, and return a firm grip.

The end-all handshake

The end all handshake – grip extra hard, pull them toward you, grab their arm with your other hand and shake vigorously. A knee to the groin may be added for good measure.

Sources: Scientific American, Psychology Today, Wikipedia
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