How many of us have experienced a limp handshake when meeting up with a new contact for the first time? Nearly everyone! In the Western business world shaking hands is an almost universal greeting, yet often it is done so badly it leaves a lasting bad impression.

Indeed, the handshake has become so ubiquitous that you may never have even thought about why people shake hands. The history of the handshake dates back to the 5th century BC in ancient Greece. Originally it was a symbol of peace displaying that neither person was carrying a concealed weapon in their hand. Over time the “handshake” developed into a more welcoming gesture, and is now the preferred form of formal greeting in most Western cultures.
In my home culture of Croatia, we greet family and close friends by shaking a hand and kissing on each cheek, where in my husband’s British culture it’s a firm handshake for a man, whereas an air kiss and handshake is the way to go for a lady. In other cultures, especially in Asia a short bow is the more appropriate, where in the Middle East the women’s hand is not supposed to be touched unless she is the first to offer.
Each society and each culture sets the norm, which can change over time, and yet, if any of these introductions is not performed correctly, it leaves a negative impression.

Handshakes are an important introductory ritual in all manner of business and social contacts, and the research shows that the quality of the handshake makes a real difference.

As a businesswoman, when I am given the opportunity to shake someone’s hand, the strength of their handshake and level of eye contact sets the tone for my initial opinion of that person.
A strong handshake with confident eye contact creates an immediate image of strength, professionalism and belief in oneself. A weak handshake for me conveys a lack of authority, anxiety and shyness.

How you shake hands provides many subtle nonverbal cues about your personality, business style and negotiating techniques.
First Impression: You never get a second chance at a first impression in business. A strong handshake sets the tone and the perception of your abilities.
Trust: A firm, strong handshake transmits your underlying confidence in yourself and your abilities. When individuals feel your confidence, it helps instill trust in your words and work abilities
Negotiations: A strong grip and a penetrating eye gaze set the tone for hardline negotiations. You also signal your willingness to compromise or reach a mutually beneficial agreement through a strong yet warm handshake. Setting the negotiating tone with your first interactions help you obtain the best deal for yourself, your client or your business with your first interactions.
Connection: Literally, a handshake offers a personal connection with another person. Even in impersonal situations, a strong handshake helps convey your personality and intentions to another person
Self-Promotion: A strong handshake may help you land a job, gain a promotion or score a lucrative client. The right touch allows you to indicate your self-motivation, desire to achieve and assertiveness.

Remember the next time you extend your hand and reach for someone else’s hand to shake, that hidden within such a seemingly simple formality is an opportunity to make a lasting impression.