Did you know that before he began his presidency, John F. Kennedy commissioned an entire study to determine the most effective handshake? Kennedy knew he would be shaking hands with the most powerful men and women in the world, and he wanted his handshake to be more than a sign of useless formality, but as an indication of his depth of character, trustworthiness, and strength.
We should all make an effort to do the same, not just with ourselves, but with our children as well. When we shake hands, we are doing more than just saying, “Hello.” We convey our confidence, and our handshake communicates the message, “This is who I am.”
JFK’s study found that the most effective handshake was a “double handshake” where the left hand is placed under the right hand to “cup” the clasped hands. This apparently lends a feeling of enthusiasm, trust, and friendship to the handshake. Today, our president, Barak Obama, often uses his left hand to grasp the upper arm of the person he is greeting to communicate his feelings of trustworthiness.
So what makes up the perfect handshake? Here are a few tips to follow and teach your children.
1. Look the person in the eyes. Eye contact can be very difficult for shy children because they often lack confidence, but it is almost as important as the handshake itself.
2. Use a firm grip. This shows confidence, strength, and enthusiasm in the other person. Hands should be clasped so that the bases of the thumbs meet. Grasping fingers can be painful. There should be firm pressure, but not a tight grasp. A limp handshake is a sign of weakness. However, don’t go overboard and grip too hard or you will communicate a feeling of dominance.
3. Don’t be too hasty. Though the handshake should be held for only about two or three seconds, make sure you hold on long enough to show the person that you are interested in them.
4. Smile, Speak, and Shake. Introduce yourself, and remember to say the other person’s name when shaking hands. When you smile and call them by name, you are communicating that they are so important to you that you remembered their name.
5. Always stand when shaking someone’s hand. Use good posture and lean slightly forward, remembering not to invade their personal space.
6. At a social function, if you have been holding a cold drink, wipe your hand on your clothing and apologize: “Sorry for my cold (or wet) hand.” Better yet, hold your drink with your left hand.
Practice makes perfect, so start practicing with your children in fun ‘role-play’ situations. Your child’s confidence will grow, he’ll learn to offer a warm, friendly, sincere handshake, and more importantly communicate, “This is who I am.”