Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Don’t be a Dead Fish.

A handshake has the potential to make or break a first impression.

A quick search will show that there are nearly a million listings online detailing the importance of the handshake and advice on getting the right technique. (Stewart, 2008).

A study done by Levav & Argo, 2010, has shown that a handshake preceding a social interaction significantly increases perceptions of trust and security. This could be to do with a little chemical called oxytocin. When you touch another person (for e.g.  a handshake) it stimulates a shot of the chemical in our brain. Oxytocin is directly related to the rewards centre in our brain and is shown to arouse feelings of trust, empathy and intimacy.( Zhe, J.W.X. and Yazdanifard, R.)

Just shaking someones hand can greatly influence the outcome of a social meeting, but, what about how you actually shake a hand?

You can tell a lot about a person from their type of hand shake.

There is the classic ‘Dead Fish’  hand shake.

This is where only the fingers are offered in a very weak grip, often accompanied with looking down or away during the shake. It indicates introversion, weakness, shyness and sends other generally unflattering signals.


Then there is the ‘Bone Crushing’ handshake.

It can happen when you’re meeting a person with a dominant personality, or someone trying to intimidate you. (i.e. Your new girlfriends dad.)

This is one of those vice-like grips, where their hand is placed slightly, or even completely above yours and squeezing hard enough to crush yours. This type of handshake can come across as aggressive and is usually perceived in a negative way.


Finally, there is the handshake that is somewhere in the middle of those two. This is where the grip is firm, and eye contact is maintained throughout.

Having a good handshake can affect your interactions more than you would think.

A study done on the likelihood of getting a job in relation to ones handshake showed that those who had desirable handshake practice (regardless of any other factors) were viewed as more employable by interviewers.

(Stewart, G, Dustin, S, Barrick, M, & Darnold, T 2008)

So, how can you improve your handshake?

  1. Don’t grip too tightly (or loosely). It’s always good to mimic the pressure of the other person.
  1. Stand front on to the person, have your hand vertical (avoid putting your palm above or below the other persons).
  1. Maintain eye contact.
  1. Clasp hands completely in an almost hand hug.
  1. Pump a few times while exchanging verbal greetings

A handshake is a powerful tool when used correctly. Make sure you are not sending the wrong message with yours.


Whitsett, BM 2014, ‘The History of the Handshake: Its Place in the Classroom in the Digital Age’, Journal Of Social Studies Research, pp. 155-163, Education Source, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 April 2016.

Dolcos, S, Sung, K, Argo, J, Flor-Henry, S, & Dolcos, F 2012, ‘The power of a handshake: neural correlates of evaluative judgments in observed social interactions’, Journal Of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 12, pp. 2292-2305, MEDLINE Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 April 2016.

Willis, J, & Todorov, A 2006, ‘First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face’, Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell), 17, 7, pp. 592-598, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 April 2016.

Stewart, G, Dustin, S, Barrick, M, & Darnold, T 2008, ‘Exploring the handshake in employment interviews’, Journal Of Applied Psychology, 93, 5, pp. 1139-1146, PsycARTICLES, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 April 2016.


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This entry was posted on May 8, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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