Japan Today



Let's shake on it

By John Boe

The handshake gesture has been used by many cultures over the years and is depicted in Greek carving dating from the 5th century BC. The handshake is traditionally used by people around the planet as a gesture of greeting, departure, offering congratulations, or finalizing a business transition. In sports, a handshake after the game between opposing team members is considered good sportsmanship.

Is your handshake style helping you create rapport or sabotaging your sales and costing you thousands of dollars per year? What type of first impression are you projecting with your handshake style? Successful salespeople understand the importance of making a favorable first impression and know how to build instant rapport with direct eye contact, a pleasant smile, and a firm, palm-to-palm handshake.

An individual's handshake style conveys many important nonverbal messages such as; self-confidence, nervousness, and dominance level. For example, if your handshake style is too strong of a grip, you're judged by others as being overly aggressive, insensitive, and controlling. Conversely, if you have a weak or frail handshake style, you are perceived as a person who is easily intimidated and too wishy-washy.

Here are examples of the most common handshake styles.


The palm is slightly tilted back to show openness and receptivity. The grip pressure is firm with a palm-to-palm / web-to-web grip. Match the same grip pressure as you are receiving. This is the ideal handshake style to build rapport.

Controller or Dominator "palm-over-palm"

The grip pressure is aggressive with a palm-over-palm, dominating grip style. This handshake is extremely aggressive and intimidating. If you are on the receiving end of this handshake, the best way to counteract it is by moving your body slightly to your right. By moving your body slightly to your right, you automatically reposition your palm into the neutral position without having to physically overpower the other person.

Vice grip

The grip pressure is excessive and very painful. This handshake is a show of power and lacks sensitivity. Typically, large men often underestimate their grip pressure strength and as a result, clamp down really hard.


This is like a Traditional grip, but with the left hand covering the person's right hand. The left hand may also move up the arm and touch the forearm, bicep, or shoulder. This handshake style is very informal and should only be used with coworkers, good friends, and family members. When salespeople use this informal handshake style, they are typically viewed as insincere, artificial, or phony.

Dead fish

The grip pressure is zero, the fingers are limp, and the palm is damp. This submissive handshake style projects low self-esteem and can be extremely unpleasant for the person who's on the receiving end. If you're the type of person who gets sweaty palms, before you shake hands, try wiping your palm on a napkin, the tablecloth, or your clothes.

"The handshake of the host affects the taste of the roast." -- Ben Franklin

John Boe presents a wide variety of motivational and sales-oriented keynotes and seminar programs for sales meetings and conventions. John is a nationally recognized sales trainer and business motivational speaker with an impeccable track record in the meeting industry.

© Japan Today

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A good topic in a land where the firm business handshake has yet to take root alongside the traditional bow. Even in business settings, I've seen people use the fingertips-only-two-handed shake, which comes across as both hesitant and overly familiar, although I do run into a few more experienced businesspeople who have mastered the traditional shake in smooth combination with the bow.

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If in the 'traditional' 'ideal' handshake both people have their palms slightly tilted back, how does it ever come together in a handshake?

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Guess I've been in Japan too long. When I return to the States (or some other country) I find myself bowing instead of offering the traditional handshake when necessary. But then I shake off this tendancy and go for the handshake. When meeting relatives and friends, I find the hug more reassuring. I have been through all of the handshakes listed above ... and find that a firm but none-crushing grip is best. Those with the "dead fish" touch leave me feeling "fishy" ... that is ... like I should be washing my pinkies as soon as possible.

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Since I lived in Japan until graduating from high school, I feel very strange about shaking hands and will only do so only when I have absolutely no choice.

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The "politician" is designed to be easily broken away from. It's for their safety. They don't shake hands like normal because if they did it'd be much more convenient for someone to latch onto them and more difficult for them to make an escape. This style shake is meant to be easily broken and keep them in a position where they can better maneuver out and away from.

I can understand that very firm shakes are best amoungst friends or acquaintances who are very familiar and perhaps very pleased with a meeting.. A lot of times when I see someone who I'd like to show a "special interest" in so to speak, as long as it's not our first time meeting, I'll shake with the right but then "clasp" my left hand over the top of their right hand that's being shaken in order to show a more intimate/ caring/ genuinely interested approach...but not as intimate as a hug per se. or intimate on a totally different level.

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