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I went to a large store dealing in automobiles last week. The owner was known to a friend of mine. Seeing us as we entered he walked across and I was introduced to him. When I put forward my right hand to shake hands with him, he almost reluctantly gave me his hand which I soon discovered was clammy with sweat. His grip was weak. That and a shifty eyed look instantly created a negative impression of him in my mind. I wondered if he was worthy of trust.

Yes, these impressions are created in seconds and underline the power of body language. The way you shake hands , they say, speaks volumes about you.

The power of body language is such that you transmit messages on your every action. If your grip is firm , it signifies confidence in yourself and a readiness to know the other person.

One handshake which cause embarrassment more than anything else is the macho bonecrusher. Here you you show the world how powerful you are with a finger crushing grip which leaves the other person yeling in pain. You may pride yourself on your strength but the gesture signals boorish show of physical prowess, aggression and the likelihood of wanting to dominate the other.

On the other extreme are people who offer a hand ever so diffidently and meekly. This signals a lack of self-confidence and transmits a message that you are hesitant to know the other person.

Not shaking hands when offered is considered downright rude in most cultures. In India, in the old days, ladies were a little hesitant to shake hands and settled for the traditional Indian greeting of “ Namaste” with folded hands. I am speaking of ladies in general and not restricting myself to the corporate world. In any case, I have found it is best to wait for a lady to offer her hand before you shake hands.

Here are a few points you may like to keep in mind:

  • Stand up and shake hands when you are introduced to someone when you are seated.
  • Make sure your hands are clean and dry. Especially relevant in buffets and social occasions when people around you are eating.
  • Maintain eye contact when shaking hands. It weakens the warmth of the handshake if your eyes wander elsewhere.
  • The hand shake normally lasts for 4-5 seconds, unless you are a politician angling for votes!

These are small things but you will be surprised how much they matter. These ” small ” actions go along way in creating an impression of ourselves. Why not take the trouble to make that a positive impression?

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This is the 90 th of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.