The only lubricant in this story….is social lubricant.
And that’s exactly what Cognitive Neuroscience says handshakes are. According to these palm professionals, we should always shake hands when we’re meeting strangers. Why? It’s a great way for us to all do what we do best as assholes: judge each other. When we start off with contact, it’s a nice non-verbal way of being positive to a stranger. An unspoken temporary trust. You’re going out on a limb. Literally. Your own fleshy limb. And thinking, “I’m touching but not terribly close. Other people do this. It’s accepted. I’m smiling at you. Too much smiling? His pump’s too vigorous. Are we done touching yet?”
You know, all the same things your wife thinks during sex.
But this social kickstarter has proven mental benefits. When studied under spinning magnets that map your brain, the amygdala (brain part for memory, decision making, and emotional reaction) went active, as it tends to do when we’re branching out and connecting with fellow human folk. And if that human’s gonna judge me, I better bring my A game. It’s not super hard. Your mama probably told you the basics. And I’ve found a few pointers online, but I’ve a few to add:
1. Extend hand heading in.
2. Contact with webbing between your thumb and pointer meeting theirs.
3. Grip firmly but not like Terminator.
4. Air-pump for 2-3 seconds.
5. Smile and make eye contact.
People with confident, strong handshakes are “better liked and gave better interviews” according to “Applied Psychology.” This makes sense when you consider you’re taking two bits of brain that handle decision-making and emotions, smooshing them together, and saying “NOW, KISS.”
It’s like lighting candles before conversational copulation.
So now that we know what to do, here’s how to not fuckitup.
My mama always said, “if you shake like a bitch, you’ll get kissed like a bitch.” I might have made that up, but the concept’s no myth. A limp wrist makes the top of the list because it’s tantamount to gripping fish. Perhaps you’re nervous. You might be reluctant to commit to physical contact. Maybe you’re Monk, the loveable germophobe. No one cares.
All they know is: “If he turns into a pansy for a simple skin clasp, what’s he do when shit gets rill?”
While eye contact’s good, try to make sure you know WTF your hand’s doing on its journey to theirs (#peripheralvision). And if you fail (as we all do), the only worse thing is to get self conscious about it. This one body language documentary showed Bush missing exit doors, going the wrong way, and getting into the wrong side of cars – it was like a delightful patriotic gag reel. Poli-loyalty aside, what kept people liking him anyway was his *Shrugs!* attitude. When homie effed up, he laughed at himself with you. An observational, “Well, that was awkward!” is a good tension breaker. And it might save ya from a bad first impresh.
No one does this with strangers. Don’t be the guy who does. Not even some variation to be ironic or relate on a sarcastic level about how dumb everyone else is. Inside-joke-handshakes are for buddies. In a business exchange, this is not your friend. If it’s a friend of a friend, this is still not your friend – yet – and they won’t be if you do this. Unless you’re in the actual cast of Friends, avoid.
I’m already embarrassed for you just thinking about it.
If you don’t know – that’s from a fantastic scene in a classic movie about killing translucent parrot aliens. And that’s where it belongs. A firm grip should feel effortlessly assertive. We’re not trying to earn street cred or welcome a new member to WWWE, brothurrrr!
And most importantly: