Saturday, December 24, 2011

Issue # 52 - Shake or Break.

Issue # 52 - Shake or Break

Hello gentlemen! It's officially only 4 more sleeps until the big day that is Christmas, and since it's much too late to really write anything about this festive time of year, (although i hope the gift giving guide worked out well), I've figured out something that may come in handy over the holidays. While i was sitting for a lovely breakfast with my girlfriend the other day, I noticed a well dressed man in his 20s walk in with his girlfriend. I was pleased to notice he was dressed relatively well, and was well groomed. As they approached their table, they were greeted by a panel of older men and women which led me to believe this was some sort of a family get together for the holidays. As the elders stood to extend their hands to the well dressed man, I was mortified to witness several of the weakest handshakes imaginable.

Here was this well dressed man, ready to make what seemed to be his first impression on his girlfriend's family, not realizing that his efforts were futile as soon as his limp handshake landed. For a moment I felt badly for the guy, and then realized that it might not be his fault; the art of the handshake has not been passed down from generation to generation as it should be.

I find that men these days fail to realize the impact of their handshake. It has the power to seal a deal, gain trust, secure a secret, and most importantly, is the ancient and time-honoured symbol of a gentleman's agreement. It's the sign of the quality of a man. Historically, a weak handshake signifies a man that cannot be trusted. A strong handshake is the sign of a man you can trust with your life. Which man are you?

It pains me to have experienced the number of weak and flimsy handshakes i've received from men, and I feel it's time for you gentlemen to learn, and correct your handshake. I will begin by listing the varied forms that handshakes have evolved into, and what signals they may be sending to the recipient. Never fear though, I will conclude this issue with tips on how to conduct the perfect handshake, and correct your current form so you can shake with style this holiday season, and perfectly anchor your impression on her family. But first, here's what you're doing wrong:

"The Bro"

You know the one i am talking about. The one-handed clasp followed by the one-armed hug. We're all familiar with it, we've all done it, and indeed there are many occasions where this is perfectly acceptable: With close friends, buddies, teammates, etc. However, this is NOT acceptable with family members of your partner (unless you've become extremely close), women, or business associates. This "shake" is strictly reserved for close, totally casual occasions, and even then, should be used sparingly. Not everyone welcomes the hug.

"The Squeeze"

This is possibly one of the most uncomfortable and awkward moments, because the recipient of the Squeeze has no idea how to react. It's when they put their hand out for a handshake, and instead of clasping their hand properly, you stop at their fingers, and give a firm (or not so firm...which is actually worse) squeeze around their knuckles. It's extremely odd and gives the impression that you either have no idea how to shake someone's hand, or you have really bad depth perception and hand-eye coordination. Regardless of the reason, if you land the Squeeze, you're going to have to be flawless in your conversational skills in order to recover.

"The Dead Fish"

This might be the most popular version at the moment. It's where the man does everything properly, his hand is in the perfect position, then nothing. No grip, no pump, nothing. At this point, you're not giving a handshake, you're just holding hands. Do you really want to hold hands with your girlfriend's dad?

"The Princess"

I know it seems like a myth, but I personally have been witness to more princess shakes than I can count. This is one of the most disturbing things a man can do during a handshake, and the odds of recovery are slim to none. The princess has officially landed when the person you're meeting extends their hand, and you extend yours, palm down, knuckles up, with a slight curve, and grasp the upper part of their fingers, as something a Princess or a Queen would do when meeting someone, or exiting their carriage. THIS IS HORRIBLE. If you do this, stop it immediately. And for any women reading this, you need to stop it too. You're not royalty, and it gives the impression to the people you're meeting (especially men who may be interested) that you're high maintenance and snooty. Shake hands normally.

"The He-Man Woman haters Club"

Ok, so I couldn't think of a better name for this one, but it refers to any and all handshakes that have several "moves" or "transitions", usually ending with a fist bump of some fashion. The most popular of these oddly enough begins with a good, solid, proper handshake...then transforms into a type of arm wrestling grip, before again transitioning into a thumb-wrestling grip, and ultimately ending with a fist bump....and if it's a super special occasion, the fist bump may or may not explode into fireworks. Now, don't get me wrong, these are fun and have their place, especially with boys among boys. But there is NO place for this outside of the frat, or the bar, or your mom's basement. If you're meeting someone for the first time, or if the occasion has even a slight amount of seriousness to it, then simply shake their hand, no matter how badly you want to break out your new reverse grip firework fist bump.

Gentlemen, the proper handshake is simple, effective, and universal. Learn it, master it and know when to use it;

Extend your arm at about waist level, hand open, thumb pointing up. This is to ALWAYS be done RIGHT HANDED, unless of course there are other if they don't have a right arm. Generally, the person who extends their hand first, holds the "power" in the situation, so in a business meeting, or another more official setting, you will most likely be the one extending second. It's VERY important to maintain strong, solid eye contact while grasping their hand palm to palm, and giving a very firm, confident grip. Too strong of a grip can send the wrong message (anger, jealousy, etc), not to mention discomfort and pain. Guage the firmness of the other persons' grip, and adjust yours from there. Too light of a grip, as mentioned above, can also have a total wrong impression. You want your handshake to convey the feeling of confidence, power and self esteem.

Next, don't get carried away with the number of pumps you give. Two pumps is perfect, and widely accepted as the proper format. Again, the proper strength here is mandatory. You don't want to act as if you're shaking a dog's paw, but you also don't want to rip their arm out of their socket. Then, you release.

Yes, that's it. No fancy finger waves or jazz hands, no fist bumps or ring kisses, just a firm, proper handshake. You may think this is a new age, and the old school handshakes are out of fashion. You may think that in a new hip world, there should be a new hip handshake. You're wrong. Keep in mind that the vast majority of people you will need to properly shake hands with are most likely all much older than you. They are used to a proper shake, and more often than you realize, they are basing their opinion on you right out of the gate, starting with your handshake. If you offer the squeeze or the dead fish in an interview, you can be sure you've already made a bad impression before you've even unbuttoned your jacket...and you had better be wearing one.

So that's it gents, Right hand, thumb up, eye contact, firm grip, 2 pumps, release. Done. Learn it, master it, and go impress her parents.

Until next time, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

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