The handshake… when and how hard?


Dear Aunty B,

I am a female entrepreneur of a midsize firm and go to a lot of networking and business functions. While I do everything as well or if not better than a man, I am at an unfair advantage when it comes to handshakes.


Men seem to have had a lot of practice as they seem to know when to shake and how hard. I always wait until the man offers his hand first and then I don’t shake that hard as I don’t want to appear as a ball-breaker.


And it is worse when I meet a business woman. Young women these days tend to kiss me on the cheek!


Any advice?





Dear disadvantaged,


Haven’t you noticed? Some men have absolutely no idea how to shake hands.


Here are my top six worst handshakes of all time:


Ol’ clammy hands: This is the clammy, shaky handshake where you have to immediately overcome an irresistible urge to wipe your hands on your trousers – or dress. Whether it is nerves or drug withdrawal, it does not leave a good impression.


Jellyfish handshake: You know this one – where the limp hand lies in yours for seconds on end until you start to wonder if they have just had a stroke and what first-aid treatment may be required.


Dirty old man handshake: Yeah, that one where the man is squeezing your hand, won’t let it go while moving closer and it is perfectly obvious that he is thinking about another part of your anatomy and not at all about your business.


The knuckle breaker: Usually the handshake of an insecure man who derives a feeling of great power as you wince and try to extract your hand with fingers intact.


The touchy-feely handshake: This is the handshake of THE PATRONISER (usually middle aged or older) who places his hand on top of yours and might even add a pat or two for good measure.


The ring squeezer: You know that one where he grabs your fingers and squeezes so that your rings dig into your flesh and leave ugly dents.


Oh god, if I touch you will I be accused of sexual harassment? Worst of the lot. This is the one where the man pauses, looks decidedly embarrassed and at the last second gives your hand a quick shake before dropping it like a hot coal.


I don’t mean to start a gender war here but just to reassure you that you, my fellow entrepreneur, are not at a disadvantage. You have a chance to learn a handshake from scratch and practice it while men who have had their hand shaken from the cradle, may never have reflected on their performance. They just act instinctively, stick out their hand and shake with nary a thought for the recipient.


So here is what I recommend. Get a good male friend who has a great handshake and get him to teach you. And always offer you hand first, both when meeting the person and when leaving. Be confident, friendly and firm and all will be fine.


Kissing is more tricky. If you want to avoid being kissed, stand at a distance, smile and lock your elbow so you can’t be pulled in. Offering your hand as you approach a kisser also makes it clear how you want to be addressed.


Good luck,


Your Aunty B

Aunty B - Your problems answered by SmartCompany's business bitch
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