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The Handshake Felt Across the World

Jayne Latz, President of Corporate Speech Solutions, discusses they way Bill Gates addressed South Korean President, Park Geun-hye.Last month, Microsoft founder Bill Gates made a trip to South Korea. During his trip, Gates met the South Korean President, Park Geun-hye. A picture was taken of Gates shaking the President’s hand upon meeting her—and in the weeks that followed that picture has sparked countless debates and discussions on whether Bill Gates is rude or simply ignorant. What was it about this picture that caused such a stir? The picture captures Gates shaking the President’s hand with one hand in his pocket and an overall relaxed, casual posture.

In Asian culture, it is customary to use a two-handed shake to show respect. By greeting the President in such a casual manner, Gates came across as rude and disrespectful, instantly damaging his reputation and causing offense to an entire nation.

While a handshake in the United States may not carry quite as much import, it is still a critical part of making a strong first impression. The wrong kind of handshake can instantly create an image of unprofessionalism or worse, rudeness. Shaking hands may seem simple, but there are several things to keep in mind to create a professional handshake that leaves a lasting impression.

First, never shake hands silently. As you reach for the person’s hand, introduce yourself or simply say, “Nice to meet you.” Make sure to make eye contact and smile; this instantly creates the impression that you are friendly and confident.

Second, pay attention to the force and motion that you use. A limp hand comes across as passive and disinterested. However, too firm of a handshake may seem aggressive and can make people uncomfortable. Use enough pressure to make an impression, but don’t squeeze. As you shake hands, lightly pump your hand up and down two to three times, leading from the elbow. Again, moderation is key: remaining motionless is awkward, but aggressively pulling your partner’s hand up and down is equally uncomfortable.

Finally, it’s important that a handshake last for the right amount of time. A typical handshake should last approximately three to four seconds. This allows enough time to make a connection, but doesn’t last long enough to feel awkward.

What’s your pet peeve when shaking hands with someone? Share your thoughts below in our comments section and join the conversation.

For information on the New York Based Speech and Accent Reduction services offered by Corporate Speech Solutions please give us a call at 212-308-7725 or visit us on the web at www.corporatespeechsolutions.com.

Jayne Latz, President and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions

Jayne Latz
Corporate Speech Solutions
(212) 308-7725