Handshakes = A thing of the past?

On average people will shake hands 15,000 times in a lifetime!

This figure though will have received a blow for this year due to recent events. The intruders have included:

  • The elbow bump
  • The foot tap
  • The head nod
  • The yoga bow
  • The wave
  • Does this mean that COVID-19 has killed off the handshake? Given these 5 examples, I doubt it as each are used to communicate something different to what could be conveyed by the long standing traditional handshake.

    There was a study done in 2014 by Dr Whitworth in the UK where they tested for the transfer of bacteria transferred in the traditional handshake, high five and fist bump. The latter 2 are closer relatives of the handshake.


    Dr Whitworth’s study found high-fives transferred about 50 per cent less bacteria than a handshake.

    It’s a significant drop, but we wouldn’t recommend dishing out any high-fives right now.

    Fist bumps

    Dr Whitworth’s study found that fist bumps transfer 90 per cent less bacteria than a handshake.

    The thinking is that the surface area of a skin-on-skin contact is less in a first bump compared to a handshake, and the length of contact is much shorter, which no doubt helps.

    After the study, Dr Whitworth recommended people adopt fist bumps instead of handshakes to reduce the spread of infection.

    Dr Whitworth’s study found the firmer the grip, the more germs are transferred. While a limp handshake is widely considered a faux pas, it is a safer shake

    So, it is Head to Head
    Handshakes V Fist Bumps

    We have heard the case for Fist Bumps, which is 90% stronger in current circumstances than the handshake.

    However, the handshake has been a main stay through good times and bad.

    Its origin is believed by some to have originated as a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon, back in the caveman days. However, the Romans who liked to hide daggers in the arms of their robes, used to grab each other’s sleeves when they met, to figure out the other’s intentions. Therefore, the ritual of the handshake is powerful and rich with symbolic significance. It is something you do without even thinking about it, and it profoundly affects your relationships.

    In Western cultures, handshaking is used to greet another person and “seal” a contract or promise. The handshake is also the quickest, most effective way to establish rapport with another person. Research in the United States shows it takes an average of three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level of rapport that you get with a handshake.

    The handshake is a potent element in communicating your personality and intent. It speaks volumes about who you really are and what you think.

    Moreover, when you shake hands, it releases the bonding hormone oxytocin, and if the handshake is done correctly, it triggers a series of reactions. If done correctly, your handshake partner is often more open to connection, more trusting, and may even view you as more likeable.

    Surely for all these factors the good-old handshake from Caveman days can service the virus! The Fist Bump is a healthy alternate to those sensitive to bacteria, but for the amount that is communicated in such a short space of time with a hand shake maybe the bacteria is worth it?

    That leads me to…..

    The perfect handshake.

    If it’s here to stay it has to be said that many people are doing this wrong and thus leaving a substandard impression of themselves. If only the Boffins have found a scientific formula to the perfect handshake!!!

    They have 😊

    Before I share the formula (and its explanation) with you, please see the breakdown in layman’s terms on how to do this action perfectly:

    To do the perfect handshake. Use right hand, a complete grip and a firm squeeze (but not too strong) Ensure fingers are under the receiving palm. Position hand in a mid-point position between yourself and the other person. A cool and dry palm, approximately three shakes, with a medium level of vigour

  • Walk up to another person and shake hands. Walk up to the person with confidence. Keep your head level and your hands at your side. Be sure to keep your hands out of your pockets. Research indicates that we don’t trust people with hands in their pockets. Make sure your right hand is free to shake hands. Always shift any purses, briefcases, papers, beverages or cell phones to your left hand before you begin the greeting If you know the rules, you give a firm three-to-five pump handshake in greeting while standing approximately sixteen inches from the person. In business you greet someone in this manner and then step back to a minimum of two-and-a-half feet distance, with no other touch in the critical first four minutes of the interaction.
  • If seated, rise. That rule used to apply to men only; now women should rise as well. If you remain seated when someone is introduced to you, the communication of personal indifference is unmistakable, not to mention offensive. The only approved exception to rising to shake hands is if you are eating. If that is the case, you can wait to shake hands until after you are done.
  • Smile briefly. Don’t overdo it. If you smile too long or too much, you are perceived as submissive. An overextended smile can create negative impressions, such as “overeager,” “easily manipulated” or “not intelligent.” Women need to take special care not to overextend the smile as it can reduce personal power and can even be misinterpreted as a sexual come on.
  • Make eye contact. There is a substantial amount of research showing that good eye contact increases feelings of trust. Don’t stare, but don’t look at your shoes. Making eye contact as you approach lets the person know you want to interact. Men need to extend the eye contact for at least three seconds without blinking or looking away as they shake hands. Women need to be careful of holding eye contact for more than three to five seconds at a time with men they have not met before. Men may perceive extended eye contact as a sexual advance.
  • Face the person heart-to-heart. When you stand at an angle and don’t face the person squarely, you are sending the symbolic message that you are not being straight and open. You may look as if you need to protect yourself, you do not like the other person, or you feel the need to reduce the intimacy or the duration of the interaction.
  • If you have a problem with clammy hands, don’t forget to wipe them on your handkerchief or tissue before you shake hands. And at social functions, carry any iced drinks in your left hand, so your right hand will not be cold and damp when a handshake is called for.
  • Reach out your right hand and arm across your body to your right. The forcefulness and confidence of the move lets the other person know you not only want to shake hands, you look forward to it.
  • Make sure the arm goes fully outward as an arm held closely to the body indicates timidity and lack of confidence.
  • Make sure your hand is straight up with the thumb on top. The thumb on top is symbolic; it indicates you want equality in your interaction. No one person will dominate. You will respect the other person and expect him or her to respect you.
  • Stretch out and open your hand between the thumb and the first finger so that you slide your hand easily into the web of the other person’s hand. Make sure the rest of your fingers are together with your palm flat rather than cupped so your palm can touch their palm…
  • Make palm-to-palm contact. Open palms symbolically show a desire to be open and honest in your interactions; not giving a person contact with your palm in a handshake is read subliminally as a lack of openness and honesty. It’s why we hate a wimpy or limp handshake. It makes the other person nervous and he or she may wonder what you are hiding.
  • Once full contact is made, wrap your fingers around the other person’s, put your thumb down gently, lock thumbs and squeeze the hand firmly. The pressure should be equal or at the most slightly more than the pressure you are given. Never grip the other’s hand in a contest of macho handshaking to see who can hold the hardest or longest. You want to have a firm handshake but the rule is to match the pressure or add no more than two degrees of pressure.
  • Now time for that equation:

    PH = √(e2 + ve2)(d2) + (cg + dr)2 + p{(4< s >2)(4< p >2)}2 + (vi + t + te)2 + {(4< c >2 )(4< du >2)}2

    The key:

    (e) is eye contact (1=none; 5=direct) 5;

    (ve) is verbal greeting (1=totally inappropriate; 5=totally appropriate) 5;

    (d) is Duchenne smile – smiling in eyes and mouth, plus symmetry on both sides of face, and slower offset (1=totally non-Duchenne smile (false smile); 5=totally Duchenne) 5;

    (cg) completeness of grip (1=very incomplete; 5=full) 5;

    (dr) is dryness of hand (1=damp; 5=dry) 4;

    (s) is strength (1= weak; 5=strong) 3;

    (p) is position of hand (1=back towards own body; 5=other person’s bodily zone) 3;

    (vi) is vigour (1=too low/too high; 5=mid) 3;

    (t) is temperature of hands (1=too cold/too hot; 5=mid) 3;

    (te) is texture of hands (5=mid; 1=too rough/too smooth) 3;

    (c) is control (1=low; 5=high) 3;

    (du) is duration (1= brief; 5=long) 3.

    This equation was formulated by Professor Beattie at Manchester University in 2010. He added that

    “The rules for men and women are the same: right hand, a complete grip and a firm squeeze (but not too strong) in a mid-point position between yourself and the other person, a cool and dry palm, approximately three shakes, with a medium level of vigour, held for no longer than two to three seconds, with eye contact kept throughout and a good natural smile with a slow offset with, of course, an appropriate accompanying verbal statement, make up the basic constituent parts for the perfect handshake.”

    To wrap up if ever you feel like practicing this formula and maybe even sealing some agreements please reach out to me and I will be happy to oblige:


    Tom Hitchcock

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