Handshakes and Hugs


The Art of Meeting and Greeting People


Lesson Info

Handshakes and Hugs

Shaking hands, this is a fundamentally important part of a good self introduction. If I were to start to build a set of bullets or describe important parts of a self introduction, if I were to start to ask everybody whose ever shaken hands with anybody, what are the elements of a good handshake? The answers would be remarkable similar. I know because I do this exercise a lot and I hear from people all the time, and I usually don't reveal anything shocking or new when I talk about the elements of a good handshake. I will also tell you that people love to talk about shaking hands. It is such a universal gesture, it's such a universal experience. It's something so many of us have navigated. It's also one of those rare opportunities that we have to physically touch one another. Often times we go through our lives without physically engaging with the people that we're with. Human contact is a rare and special thing. Particularly in professional contacts, we don't physically interact with th...

e people around us all that often, all that frequently. I know we live in an age of professional hugging, and we're going to talk about that, and the problems that come with that as the slide develops. The mayor of Los Angeles happens to be a big hugger right now, I've been getting a lot of questions about that. My cousin Lizzie Post just visited the West Coast for the first time from Burlington, Vermont in quite awhile, and one of the things she talked about when she called home were all the people that wanted to hug her. So we're going to talk about that in just a second, but let's stick with the handshake, the universal gesture of peace and friendship. What are some elements of a good handshake? What do you think? Go ahead, and yeah, call them out. Eye contact. Eye contact, absolutely, what else? Firm. Firm grip, sure, what else? Keeping it a reasonable amount of time. Ah, duration, yep, fourth one. Someone took your first three, what's another element of a good handshake? I can't think of any other for now. Alright, stand up, everybody's going to stand up. We're going to meet as equals, it's going to make that eye contact easier. Look them in the eye and smile. A smile is the little coda, the eye contact's really important, a warm generous open smile is another important part of that first impression, that first encounter. Firm grip, comes up often. How firm is too firm? How soft is too soft? One of the most common offenders in the hand shake is the forefinger. I'm just going to, I'm just going to pinch your hand between my thumb and my forefingers. Now we're going to try to meet web to web in the vertical plane. Hand in front of us about 18 inches is an arm's length as well as comfortable social distance for most people. I thought that we had left the era of the bone crushing, too firm handshake long in the past, until I experienced one not too long ago. I was at a firm, it was a financial firm. These were people that worked on Wall Street and it was a very aggressive culture at this particular firm. I said whoa, that might work really well in your particular work culture, but I find it a little unsettling as a guest here. So how is too firm if there's too soft and there's too firm? About the same degree of firmness you would use to open a doorknob. I know doorknobs are less and less common these days, but about the same pressure it would take to turn a doorknob is a good firmness for a handshake. You're not going to fly in from above, you're not going to supplicate yourself from below, you're going to meet as equals in the vertical plane. How is too long? We talk about duration. What's too long for a handshake? One pump, two pumps, by the time you get to about the third pump you're probably starting to get into that slightly awkward too long territory. We say maybe one, two pumps, maybe three. By the time you get to four, someone's probably wanting to get out of there. What's the best solution, let go. Most people are going to release when you let go of that handshake. When they're teaching people to do the trapeze, there's a grip that you use. You use it often times when you're doing high wire work or work on the trapeze where you hold each other's wrists, and it works really effectively because when you release you can feel it within fractions of seconds. It's easier to time releases. When someone feels you letting go, their natural impulse is going to be to let go also. One, two pumps, how long. Another common offender is that second hand, the hand hug. The deferential, the politician. You're going to keep that second hand out of the equation. Single handed, one hand handshake. Stand up straight, look them in the eye and smile. And finally, say your name, repeat their name. Hi, I'm Dan Post Senning from the Emily Post Institute, it's a pleasure to meet you. Oh, hi Mr. So and So from Creative Live, it's a pleasure to be here today. The exchange of names is a really useful way to start to get to that second difficult question of how do I remember this person? Saying their name while you look at them and exchange that warm, friendly, connected eye contact is a great way to start to imprint and remember that name. Confidence is key. Ultimately even if you forget someone's name, it's going to be okay. It happens to all of us. What people will remember is their impression, how they feel in that moment. Your confidence, the security with which you present yourself is going to help establish that. So we live in the era of the presidential fist pump of the politician, and the professional hug. The handshake is your universal gesture. It's going to work in most situations. Yeah, question? What happen when in that culture people really don't shake hands? The question is what do you do if you're in a culture where people really don't shake hands? We're going to spend a lot more time talking about crossing cultural boundaries and managing cross cultural expectations in another course, but the short answer is you've got to be like a chameleon when it comes to your manners. That you want to know the context that you're operating in and you really want to be thinking about the other person, particularly when you're thinking about manners. So if I'm in a cultural context where people don't shake, ideally I would have thought about that ahead of time. If I know I'm in a country where women don't shake hands, I'm not going to offer my hand unless someone has offered me their hand first. If I'm in a culture where a bow is a more common first meeting gesture, I'm going to prepare and have some idea of what's expected. I was having dinner with a woman not too long ago who was going to meet the Queen, and she was really debating how she was going to manage her curtsy. And she was aware that Americans weren't expected to curtsy, but at the same time she kind of wanted to. So she was trying to remember her Catiline class, and she was trying to execute the curtsy. This was a situation where there was a degree of formality that she was really anticipating and she wanted to be able to participate in that particular cultural tradition. Watch other people for cues. Use the handshake as a default. If you're uncomfortable with professional hugging, you can kind of use the handshake in some ways to hold off someone who's a hugger.

Class Description

A first impression can make or break a relationship. If you come off as awkward, rude or silly when you meet someone, that could spoil the connection forever. But if you appear kind, confident and witty, you’ll have the person in the palm of your hand.

This course tackles the ins and outs of introductions, first impressions, and initial conversations, so you can walk into potentially difficult situations feeling confident, knowing how to act and never at a loss for words.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Introduce yourself and others gracefully.
  • Extend and build on introductions.
  • Know what to say and what not to say in conversations.
  • Listen to people so they know they’re being heard.
  • Shake hands properly in the era of hugs and fist bumps.
  • Handle a situation where you don’t know or forget someone’s name.
  • Make conversation that’s safe but interesting.
  • Manage potentially controversial topics like politics and religion.
  • Discuss personal topics that require the most care and tact.