Handshake Etiquette and Greetings Gone Wrong

07/26/2017 08:34 am ET

Everyone has experienced a handshake which has gone horribly haywire. Perhaps someone holds on for way too long (such as Trump vs. Macron), or you miss their hand entirely and instead scratch their arm with your watch. Whatever the cause of your handshake casualty, it's not impossible to recover. In fact, it's important you do. A bad handshake is difficult to forget.

Here's how to identify and recover from a handshake mishap.

The Lingering Hold

It’s bad enough to watch but even worse to experience firsthand. A long, multiple pump shake that never seems to end. Extract yourself from the unpleasant grip by giving one last, firm pump, saying, "Great to see you. Shall we sit down and enjoy lunch?"

The Fly-By

Not everyone has the hand-eye coordination of an athlete and missing someone can turn your face a bright shade of red. Recover quickly by redirecting your hand towards theirs, offering your best grip. Don’t worry, the fly-by-flop happens to everyone at one time or another. No harm done.

The Arm Grip

A confident handshake does not include the arm. Historically, grabbing someone’s arm was used to determine if they were carrying a weapon. It has evolved into a signal of protectiveness or dominance. Avoid the forearm squeeze when greeting a client or someone you are attempting to impress as it comes across as aggressive.

The Sweaty Palm

There is little worse than encountering a wet hand-to-hand welcome. If you experience excessive sweat when you are nervous, keep a tissue or handkerchief close and wipe your hand before shaking. Be discreet. If the condition is serious, seek medical attention to get the issue under control.

A Hug Gone Wrong

Some people are simply huggers. Although not suggested as a professional greeting, it often happens in a business setting. Watch the body language and follow their lead. Avoiding the outstretched arms of an approaching client may affect the rest of the conversation and harm an important relationship. Lean in and strive to meet shoulder to shoulder. Keep your arms around the upper part of the other persons back. Avoid the side hug in business. It feels distant and awkward.

Handshakes to Avoid

  1. The Politician – A double fisted shake which attempts to convey the message of sincerity. Unless you already have an established relationship, skip it. Commonly used with close family, friends and at funerals to console an acquaintance.
  2. The Bump – A knuckle to knuckle collision.
  3. The Cold Fish – A limp handshake which sends the message of weakness or insecurity.
  4. The Lobster – Similar to the “Cold Fish” except the grip is a pinch.
  5. The Vice Grip – A strong squeeze which signals the person is difficult to get to know or conduct business with.

The Right Way

Be the first to extend your arm with your hand held out, thumb up. Signal your intention by smiling and offering your first and last name if you are introducing yourself for the first time. The perfect handshake consists of three firm hand pumps. Strive to make contact with the other person’s flat palm, connecting with their fold of skin between the index finger and thumb.

For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, you may enjoy reading Manners That Never Go Out of Style. You can also visit Diane’s blog, connect with her here on HuffPost, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on PinterestInstagram and Twitter. Buy her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.

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