How to Read a Handshake

Written by elizabeth stock
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How to Read a Handshake
An employer can learn about a prospective employee by a handshake. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

A handshake, exchanged when two people first meet or as a greeting between friends, is also common in business. A handshake, however, is more than just the shaking of two hands and can reveal many traits about the other person's personality, including confidence and assertiveness. Whether you're an employer, stranger or friend, it's important to learn how to read a handshake so you can gain valuable information about the other person -- and understand what you may be conveying through yours.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Approach the other person for a handshake. Read their body language prior to shaking. For example, upon meeting a new person, it's customary to stand up. In addition, the other individual should make eye contact and hold it throughout the length of the handshake.

  2. 2

    Reach out your hand to initiate the handshake, or accept a handshake if the other party initiates it. If you notice surprise when you reach out your hand it may mean several things, including that they are not used to this exchange and might be new in the business environment. Someone who initiates contact is probably showing confidence, while someone with sweaty palms may be very anxious or nervous.

  3. 3

    Feel the firmness of the handshake. Firm is universally recognised as a good handshake. However, a tight grip that becomes uncomfortable is too firm and may mean the individual is overcompensating -- either very confident or nervous. Also pay attention to the length of the handshake, which lasts about three seconds on average.

Tips and warnings

  • My examples are left to interpretation. There are many varieties of handshakes and even more variations. Ultimately how to read a handshake is left up to you. What I have written is simply a guideline and free information.

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