» What Your Handshake Style Says About You

Pro to Pro Insights

Traci Brown

This article was written by Body Language and Persuasion Expert Traci Brown. Traci teaches strategic body language for unconscious persuasion in keynotes worldwide. She’s a frequent guest on TV interpreting the body language of criminals and politicians.To book Traci to speak to your team and get them performing at their best, visit www.BodyLanguageTrainer.com.

Body language can be anywhere from about 20% to 100% of a person’s communication; a study of it can reveal secrets hidden in plain sight. It can uncover lies, truth, real feelings and what they may do next. Learning to read others’ body language and strategically use your own can dramatically increase your likability, your sales and your bottom line.

Handshakes originated hundreds of years ago, in the Middle Ages, to determine if people were safe. If knives fell out of someone’s sleeve as you shook their hand, you knew they were up to no good.

Today handshakes are the standard greeting in business and even personal situations. You’re probably not looking for weapons. But there’s still a lot to be learned about the motives and beliefs of others through their handshake style!

Palm down shakeThe Palm-Down Shake

When someone shakes your hand and turns their palm down, they want to dominate the interaction.

When you receive a palm-down shake you can move both of your hands back to the Equal Shake. And you could make the decision if you want to work with the other person or not. They are most interested in getting their way!

Palm up shakeThe Palm-Up Shake

When someone shakes your hand and turns their palm up, they want to be welcoming and pleasing and will most likely do exactly what you want.

When you receive a palm-up shake, you can move it to the Equal Shake position to show that you want to be on even ground. In your dealings with palm-up shakers, make sure that you go for a win-win. They will be easily persuaded to do what you want! 

Equal shakeThe Equal Shake

When you shake hands and the clasp is vertical, it says that you’re meeting on common ground and want a nice, even interaction. You can easily turn a palm-down or palm-up attempt into an Equal Shake if necessary.

There’s nothing to do about this. It’s what you want!

The Fist Bump
Fist bump
This shows a symbol of power and raising fists together to fight in unity. Its origins are as a secret handshake between soldiers.

If someone offers you their fist, just bump it with yours. It’s more awkward to change course once the fist is offered instead of the palm. Plus, you want to be cool, don’t you?

The Dead Fish Handshake
Dead fish
A limp handshake tells people that you don’t have a backbone and will do anything they want without any argument. If you receive a dead fish handshake, it could indicate that the person or couple is going to be agreeable to your offers.

If you are giving someone else a dead fish handshake, it’s likely you don’t even know it! As a rule of thumb, when you shake another person’s hand, just match their grip and you’ll let them know you mean business.

Firm gripThe Nice Firm Grip

The perfect handshake is firm, but not too firm.

When you get a handshake that matches the firmness of your grip, you know that the other person wants to meet you on common ground. If your grip is less firm, be sure to match theirs (unless you find yourself in the situation below!).

The Bone Cruncher
Bone cruncher
When you receive a handshake that’s way too hard, you know that the other person is trying to dominate the situation or trying to be someone they’re not.

A handshake like this lets you know who you’re working with and their deep, unconscious motivations. Be careful! They may be friendly on the surface but you’ll know what’s really on their mind.