The Handshake: What You’re Doing Wrong and How to Make it Right


One of the most important parts of becoming an adult, particularly if you’re a man, is learning how to shake someone’s hand. This may seem like a simple concept, yet I am continually blown away by the number of guys who are unable to grasp this basic function. What’s more, when I air these criticisms about other people’s handshakes, I am mocked for caring about such a trivial issue. Well, it isn’t trivial. It’s a fundamental part of being a fully functioning human being, and as such, I’m going to break down the different types of handshake and shed some light on this highly important topic.

  1. The standard, right-handed handshake.shke.PNG

To put it bluntly, this is the measure of your manhood. Forget any insecurities you may have about how well-endowed you are, if you are incapable of performing a decent handshake, you might as well take yourself out of the gene pool voluntarily. What self-respecting father is going to allow his daughter to marry a man who can’t master such an essential task? What potential business partner is going to invest thousands of pounds into a company run by a man who cannot muster the courage to look a person in the eye and shake their right hand? The fact is, a good handshake is the deal breaker in so many aspects of life, and you are selling yourself short if you cannot do it. To perform a correct handshake, you must engage eye contact with the other person, extend your right hand and firmly grasp theirs like it’s a ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Any form that deviates away from this is a perversion of what is good and true in the world, so make sure you get it right.

2. The fist bump.


The fist bump is one of the fastest and most effective ways of demonstrating how low your IQ is and how you have absolutely no ambition in life. This isn’t 8 Mile and you are not a professional rapper, so I have no idea what on earth you think you’re doing bumping my fist when I go to shake your hand. Given that you’re already in your early 20s, at what stage were you planning on growing up and getting a job? I know that perpetual adolescence is fun and all, but this is the real world, and sooner or later you’re going to need to learn that selling your mixtape is not a substitute for a proper job, and nor is a first bump a substitute for a proper handshake.

3. The arm hug, hand hold.

right hand.PNG

This form of “handshake” is difficult to describe with words, but you will have seen it before. It’s when two guys hold their right arms up and grasp each other’s hand at a 45-degree angle. It sort of resembles an arm wrestle, only instead of there being a winner and a loser, these guys are both losers. I have never seen this one actually pulled off without it looking incredibly awkward. It has none of the warmth of a hug, none of the convenience of a fist bump and none of the honour of a handshake. If I was tasked with creating the dumbest form of physical greeting, it would probably look a lot like this.

4. The bro hug.

Perhaps the only greeting more awkward than the arm hug/hand hold is the bro hug. Unlike a normal hug where two people who love each other engage in a warm, full body embrace, the bro hug is reserved for guys who don’t know how to manage the combination of emotion and physical contact with regards to other men. Nothing reeks of beta-male more than a guy who leans in with his upper body only and gives you a one arm pat on the back before moving out while maintaining a fixed gaze with the floor. If you’ve just come back from a two-year tour in Afghanistan, I’ll be giving you a full-on bear hug that lasts almost uncomfortably long. But if we’ve met a few times before and I bump into you in the SU, I don’t want a hug and certainly don’t want some pathetic, awkward one-armed embrace from you. Utilise the hug sparingly, and when you do hug someone, do it properly and ditch this bro hug abomination.

5. The wet fish.

I appreciate you making an attempt at a proper handshake, but if you aren’t going to do it properly then you are in effect dishonouring it. It isn’t enough to simply stick out your right hand and caress the other person’s palm. You need to really engage with the process. Likewise, if you don’t look the other person in the eye when you shake their hand then don’t bother doing it at all. The wet fish is basically the handshake’s younger brother. He’s shy, he’s socially awkward, he’s not fully developed, but at least there’s potential. I’m not going to lie and tell you that a wet fish handshake will get you far in life, because it won’t. But what I will say is that unlike Mr Fist Bump, you’re not a lost cause.

There are many more “handshakes” that haven’t made it on to this list, but that doesn’t mean that they’re acceptable forms of greeting. As a general rule, if it’s not a standard handshake then don’t bother doing it. Of course, if you go to another country and they have different norms and customs then adhere to them. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. But here in the West, the handshake reigns supreme, and rightly so. Chances are, if you’re reading this you’re probably at university, which means you’re spending thousands of pounds on an education in order to improve your career prospects. As such, make sure you don’t let it all go to waste by entering the real world with an embarrassingly poor substitute for good old fashioned handshake.

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