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It's part of your first impression... make it a good one!

Every day we meet people. Some are new, where as others you've known for years. Each time you meet someone, typically you greet them with a handshake. What does your handshake say about you?

One of my biggest pet peeves is a weak handshake. You know the one where if feels like you are shaking hands with a noodle. When I extend my hand for yours, I am looking for a firm shake. Not something overbearing, but certainly not just your fingertips. If I meet you for the first time, I'll certainly judge you right away based on the handshake. I'm not too concerned when its a parent of my children's friend. The can be overly confident or lack confidence, I don't care. We may not hang out, but you are welcome to my home. But if we were meeting in order to work together, it will make all the difference in the world and I'll be prepared to just move on.

I took the liberty of looking up the definition of a good, solid handshake. You may think this is basic, but so many people do this wrong. Here's what was said:


  • Extend your right hand to meet the other person's right hand.
  • Point your thumb upwards toward the other person's arm and extend your arm at a downward angle.
  • Wrap your hand around the others person's hand when your thumb joints come together.
  • Grasp the hand firmly and squeeze gently once.
  • Hold the handshake for 2-3 seconds
  • Pump your hand up and down a few times to convey sincerity.


There are so many variations that are done. Some people extend the handshake with the palm facing up. Others there their palm is facing down. And as I mentioned, there are those that don't really shake your hand, they are just holding it out there for you to do the work. My favorite is usually the over aggressive fingers spread wide open, followed by the 'over the top' squeeze.

When I meet someone for the first time or 10th time, I follow the steps above and even make sure to continue eye contact. In business, a handshake can make the difference between someone doing business with you or passing you by for the next best thing.


  • Are you overly aggressive or cocky?
  • Are you passive and can be dominated easily by others?
  • Are you confident (not to be confused with cocky) about your abilities and proud of who you are?


Especially as a Real Estate Agent, its very important to have the right handshake. Not something that tells your client that you will TELL them what to do and/or will let them walk all over you. You want to show them that you are confident in your ability to sell the home or show them homes in their price range and style. Don't try to bully them with your handshake or offer them the 'wet fish' shake.

Have you analyzed what your handshake says about you? What does it say?



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Frisco TX Mortgage



The views expressed on this site are mine alone and do not reflect the views of my employer.

Comment balloon 53 commentsJohn Cannata • September 22 2009 10:55AM


This is so true-you never get a second chance to make a first impression-better make it good the first time.

Posted by Pat Champion, Call the "CHAMPION" for all your real estate needs (Coldwell Banker Camelot Realty) almost 10 years ago

When I receive a weak handshake I perceive it as someone that doesn't really want to shake my hand.  I don't like those people.

Posted by Angelia Garcia (Pure Realtors) almost 10 years ago

John, My grandfather taught me how to shake hands by applying enough pressure to be effective. I do press firmer with men and less so with women. Thanks for the great post !

Posted by Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!, So Utah Residential, Referral & Relocation REALTOR (Prado Real Estate South) almost 10 years ago

John - I certainly share this pet peeve with you.  The worst are the people that stick their hand out and make no effort.  It gives me chills as I feel like I'm shaking hands with a corpse.  Come to think of it, some of these people have personalities to match.  I always thought zombies would have strong handshakes, but now I wonder if I haven't met a few and didn't know it.

Posted by Erik Hitzelberger, Louisville - Middletown Real Estate (RE/MAX Alliance - Louisville REALTOR-Luxury Homes) almost 10 years ago

I've always thought a good firm handshake is a well managed one. However, not everyone take the same impression. I have ladies that just extend the tips of their fingers. Then you wonder what you need to do.

Posted by Loreena and Michael Yeo, Real Estate Agents (3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Prosper TX Real Estate Co.) almost 10 years ago

John - Right you are.  I remember learning this when I was about 12 years old.  I taught my son about this starting when he was around 5.  Incidentally, on today's show, we talked to Paul Chaney, author of the just-released book, "The Digital Handshake".  I am getting my copy today!

Posted by Jason Crouch, Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653) (Austin Texas Homes, LLC) almost 10 years ago

John- a shared pet peeve.  I've always been in sales of some sort and can't remember even one fruitful business realtionship I had that was associated with a weak handshake.  I want someone that's going to shake my hand and look me in the eye like they mean business.  Sometimes I wonder if it's a lost art.  Now people just bump knuckles.

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) almost 10 years ago

... yup pet peeve of mine too ... lame handshakes leave such a bad first impression !


Posted by Sheldon Neal, That British Agent Bergen County NJ (Bergen County, NJ - RE/MAX Real Estate Limited) almost 10 years ago

Great post.  A handshake is something I do and never think about it much until confront with someone who makes it awkward by just handing you their fingers, etc.  There is a realtor in our area whose marketing photo is her holding out her hand to shake yours....and she's using great form.  :)

Posted by Lina Robertson, REALTOR® Serving Springfield, Nixa and Ozark, MO (RE/MAX Solutions and RE/MAX House of Brokers) almost 10 years ago

This made me smile. I remember back in March a potential client complimented me on my "great handshake" as he called it. :)  He interviewed someone else, but picked me. Don't know if it was the handshake...but Dad always told me there's nothing worse than the limp "dead fish" handshake.

Posted by Sonja Patterson, Texas Monthly 5-Star Realtor Recipient for the Hou (Keller Williams - BV) almost 10 years ago

Great stuff, John... interesting how the small details leave such a large impression!

Posted by JB Brookman, High School Senior Portrait Photographer (JB Brookman Photography) almost 10 years ago

This is so true. Good post. Let me add to this. An old boss of mine was a stickler for quality stationery and good sturdy, heavy stock business cards. He always said a thin, flimsy business card was no different than a weak handshake, and a weak handshake was like kissing your sister. Something I've never forgotten. Even in this day and age of electronic everything, a firm handshake and quality, professional marketing pieces still make a better impression than anybody's blog. Sorry, AR, lol.

Posted by Michael Myers (King-Rhodes & Associates) almost 10 years ago

Boy, did you hit the nail on the head with this one.  I taught my two sons,, and especially my daughter, that a good handshake  - in every sense of the word - is what can make or break a business relationship.  Another pet peeve - people who won't look you in the eye.

Posted by Michael Bergin, Northern Virginia Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - ABR - SRES ) almost 10 years ago

John,  I am with you on this.  I like others have not had very successful transactions with folks who have a whimpy handshake.  The folks who won't look you in the eyes, how do you trust them?

Posted by Terry Meyer (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sound Realtors) almost 10 years ago

That's right Pat.

Angelia - LOL I could see why you may think that, but I dont really think thats the case. I think that person probably doesnt like interaction much, but would not take it personally.

Wanda - Sounds like you have it down. Your grandfather was a wise man to teach you that at a young age. I don't try to strong arm a woman, but I'll give them the same respect as a man. The only time I am firmer with a man is when they try to squeeze it. I return it ever so slightly.

Erik - I sort of agree with you. When I shake hands with someone that just lends me their hand, I feel odd, like Im pressuring them to shake my hands. I try to be real gentle.

Loreena - There is a higher percentage of woman than men, that just lend the hand instead of complete the handshake. But I still have found plenty of men that need this advice as well.


Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 almost 10 years ago

John - great post!!  Body language does speak volumes if you can read it!  I've come across a couple of people that actually will not shake your hand - one guy I remember, a wholesale car seller from many years ago when I painted cars, - if you actually managed to shake his hand he would soon disappear to the nearest bathrom to wash up!  Sometimes we would make it a game to get him to shake hands!  Howie Mandel has OCD and if you notice on his Deal or No Deal show he never shakes hands with contestants - just the fist bump!


Posted by Brian & Marie Spray, Frisco TX Realtors ( - Action Realty Group) almost 10 years ago

Jason - Its good to show your son early on. Not sure I started at 5, but I've had the conversation as well. Luckily I also have a wife that is a Firm Shaker. She is a 1st VP in Corp America so she needs to have this, but she has had a firm handshake since I met her 15 years ago and that was when she was just a supervisor. :-)

Kathy - LOL I cant imagine meeting someone for the first time and 'bumping knuckles'. That would be terribly funny. I have done that with friends, but if someone did that to me for the first time, I would probably just reach out and shake it. HA!

Hey there Mr. Neal. I'm glad that it doesnt just bother me. Quite a few of you agree.

Lina - Kudos for noticing the form. Its not a bad marketing idea. We have plenty of marketing photo's just like that. Its not us, but still in good form and professional.

Sonja - I am sure the handshake had something to do with it. After all, he did comment on the handshake and that probably stuck with him. Congrats!

JB - Too many people forget about the small details or get too distracted on something else. The little details go a long way, I agree.

Michael M - That is an excellent point about the business cards.  I believe that as well. A few months back, I had a handy man provide me with a card. And sure, maybe handy men dont normally carry cards (but they should). This was so flimsy that I ended up just throwing it away. I dont think it has to have all the bells and whistles, but it should be sturdy. Thanks for adding that point.

Michael B - Looking the other person in the eyes just shows sincerity. Its genuine and its important. Good thinking to show your daughter as well. A good handshake is important no matter what you do in life. Men and Women should follow these tips.

Terry - Honestly, Im not sure how my business relationship would be with a person who has a flimsy handshake. Once I feel it, I'm pretty much out the door. HA.

Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 almost 10 years ago

Brian - I did notice that about Howie. I've never come across someone that has this issue, so I'm not sure how I would react to it. I think I can actually over look this issue, but again have not been faced with it. They should be held to the same standards, right?

Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 almost 10 years ago

I have done the bad handshake (being the giver) feels weird so this is good to keep in mind.

Posted by Chuck Carstensen, Minnesota Real Estate Expert (RE/MAX Results) almost 10 years ago

First impressions are all we get sometimes and a good confident look and handshake shows you mean business. Great points.

Posted by David M. Childress, I would love to be your Realtor® in Akron Ohio! (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) almost 10 years ago


The handshake is a beginning.  The rest has to also be congruent and reflect your true nature.  This is a 100% game, you have to be consistent from the handshake to the close and maintaining the relationship after the deal!

Posted by Ron and Alexandra Seigel, Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy (Napa Consultants) almost 10 years ago

My pet peeve is people who write about their pet peeves.

Posted by Aaron Vaughn | Builder | Investor, If the deal makes sense, the cash will follow. (Conifer Homes) almost 10 years ago

John, I don't like the fingertip handshake either. That is creepy. I also don't like the handshake that I still feel 5 minutes later because my hand was squeezed so hard. A firm handshake shouldn't hurt. 

Posted by Jen Bowman, Realtor - Anna Maria Island & Bradenton FL (Keller Williams on the Water) almost 10 years ago

John,  You're so right and you'd think a handshake would be basic to business, but NOT SO!  I totally find the limp hand shake almost obscene.  It's just gross. If you can't use a little confidence, don't bother.  I never get the too firm shake, the the limp noodle happens all to often.  And SURPRISE!  it's men, not women.

Great Post.


Posted by Marian Goetzinger, Crystal Coast Real Estate NC (Pine Knoll Shores Realty 252-422-9000) almost 10 years ago

When you get a weak handshake I get the impression they don't want to shake my hand. Which of course is a bad first impression

Posted by Cassi @ Knightyme Video Tours (Knightyme Video Tours) almost 10 years ago

It appears to be Texas Day on AR... LOL I agree with you that a firm handshake tells me a lot about a person.  Also, looking that person in the eye while shaking their hand shows a certain amount of confidence to me. 

Posted by Emily Lowe, Nashville TN Realtor (The Lipman Group | Sotheby's International Realty) almost 10 years ago

Chuck - Keep practicing.

Well said David.

Ron & Alexandra - Good point. It is important, but if you don't start strong it may not make a difference what you do after that.

Aaron - Thanks for bringing up another pet peeve of mine. Negative people. I'm just sharing a thought and providing some constructive criticism. Hopefully you can appreciate that, even though I dont like pet peeves. LOL

Agreed Jenn - There is no need to squeeze someones hand to death. Firm, but not abusive.

Marian - Im not a big fan of that handshake either. I feel your pain.

Cassi - I dont take it too personal, im just not a fan.

Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 almost 10 years ago

Emily - The eye contact is very important. Couldnt agree more.

Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 almost 10 years ago

I was at a meeting, and this couple was introduced to me.  The woman's handshake was just  the fingertips.  Gosh, it totally took me by was also creepy.

Posted by Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®, Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate (Vision Quest Realty) almost 10 years ago


Donald Trump avoids the handshake partly out of a sense of domination, although he does claim that it's just the germs.


Posted by Brian Madigan, LL.B., Broker (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto)) almost 10 years ago

A confident handshake is a must. But just as important is eye contact when you're doing it. Lately, I've been placing my other hand a top the hand shake. It has helped defined the roles each party is going to take. Great thoughts.

Posted by Hugo Torres (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 10 years ago

I've always been a two-handed shaker. Never knew what it meant for a long time. Glad I do it now that I know.

Trying the bone crusher handshake on me is not recommended. My nails are deadly weapons. ;)

Posted by Candice A. Donofrio, 928-201-4BHC (4242) call/text (Next Wave RE Investments LLC Bullhead City AZ Commercial RE Broker) almost 10 years ago

There are also cultural differences that must be taken into account as well.  Great post John.  I actually had a bone-crusher once who made my hand tender and sore for a week once.

Posted by Chris Olsen, Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate (Olsen Ziegler Realty) almost 10 years ago

John, some nationalities don't do hand shakes.  Those are always weak. So I guess I never expect it from those countries.

Posted by Russ Ravary ~ Metro Detroit Realtor call (248) 310-6239, Michigan homes for sale ~ (Real Estate One) almost 10 years ago

Great post!  You are so right; you never get a second chance to make a first impressions that's why it's critical to make the first one a good one.

Posted by Yvette Gardner (Keller Williams Realty, Spartanburg, SC) almost 10 years ago

John~ Those limp, dead fish and effortless handshakes tell me a lot about a person.....  those that try to break your hand are almost as bad! 

Posted by Vickie McCartney, Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY (Maverick Realty) almost 10 years ago

How do we handle living in the age of swine flu???

Posted by Rich Bouchner, New York City Real Estate (Bouchner & Co. Real Estate (Rich Bouchner)) almost 10 years ago

The best handshake I think is the one where the person puts their other hand over top of yours. My husband says that's a control issue but around here it's sincerity.

Posted by Celeste Chism - Serving You in Crossville, Fairfield Glade, Lake Tansi & Cumberland Cove, Serving You is My Top Priority (RE/MAX Premier Choice) almost 10 years ago


I became the number 2 at my firm in two weeks and I'll tell you how...Name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.

Posted by John Neil (Bank of Utah) almost 10 years ago

I love a good handshake that shows sincerity and confidence.  In my experience, worse than the weak handshake is the one that crushes your hand to the point of extreme pain.  I used to try to be "brave" and not show my reaction in the past, but not any more!  If someone tries to pull that I look them straight in the eye and say "Ouch -- That hurt!"  I'd never consider doing business with them!

Posted by Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging, "Staging that Sells Portland Homes" (Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR) almost 10 years ago

Hi John,

Boy, I'm with you on this! I didn't get through your comments, so hopefully I'm not repeating, yet as a female the handshake is a big issue for me. When someone takes my hand and gives me sort of a girlie finger shake, (not taking the full hand) I feel they're not looking at me as an equal. Maybe it's a male courtesy thing...I'm not sure. In reality I don't feel like they take me seriously.

Btw, I've been a Sunday greeter at my church, shaking hundreds each morning. It's always an interesting and fun time. I have my regulars and then we also have a lot of visitors to the well known landmark in Garden Grove, CA.


Posted by Lynda Eisenmann, Broker-Owner,CRS,CDPE,GRI,SRES, Brea,CA, Orange Co (Preferred Home Brokers) almost 10 years ago

I always extend my hands for the handshake the correct way. If the other party doesn't do likwise, I don't take it personal. As it has been said in the comments above, some cultures don't believe in the hand shake or greet thier own way. I prefer people to be sincere in their attitude towrds me rather than offer a firm handshake and then stab me in my back.

Posted by Rajeev Narula, My Services Are All About You! (iPRO REALTY LTD.,Brokerage) almost 10 years ago

John, right on! A good handshake is the best extension of confidence in what you are doing. Congrats on the feature.

Let's make it a double feature...

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Helping you live your American dream...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Love it.  I am continually amazed, especially after all the presentations made about this topic, how many people in business still have a crummy handshake.  How you shake hands says so much about the way you do business.  If I met my REALTOR for the first time and they had a wimpy handshake, I wouldn't trust them to negotiate the sale of purchase of my home!!!

Posted by Jeani Codrey, If you're not learning, you're not living! (The Learning Jeani) almost 10 years ago


You are right about the importance of a handshake. My dad taught me to keep a hankie (clean) in my suit-coat pocket. When I think I might be shaking hands, I reach in and do a quick swipe - just in case my palm is sweaty.

I've had some gents do such bone crushers that my ring actually cuts into my skin. Not nice...

Posted by Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ (Weichert) almost 10 years ago

This is a funny blog to me because I have an old football injury that causes my hand to pop when squeezed. I have a very firm handshake, but every time I shake someone's hand, my hand pops. Some people get a little freaked out by having something in their hand go "CRACK". :-)

Posted by Clint Miller (Real Estate Pipeline, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

I have very tender hands.  (fibromyalgia)  Oh gosh...there was a guy at church who thought the firmest handshake was the best.  I was new there and hadn't been warned, so when he grabbed my hand and crushed... it hurt so bad I screamed before I realized I was screaming.  Apparently he was well known for his "strong handshake".

He softened it a bit after that...and several women came up and thanked me for my sacrifice.  Firm is not crushing.  Gentle is not limp.  One more reason to watch the faces of those you're shaking hands with.  You can gauge pain (crusher) and disgust (limp fish) a lot better if you're paying attention.

Posted by Monica Hess, Kentucky's Feng Shui Master (Feng Shui This Kentucky) almost 10 years ago

The weak and clammy handshake is the worst. I call it "The Fish"

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) almost 10 years ago

Rebecca - Im never quite sure what to do with 'just fingertips'. Did she want you to kiss her hand??

Brian - I heard that about Trump... the germs part. You may be on to something with the domination thing.

Hugo - That brings up a good point. I've always seen the 'over hand' some what like a hug. LOL I've done it plenty of times, but typically with friends. I dont have anything negative to say about that manuever.

Candace - I assume you are talking about the technique mentioned by Hugo. I agree. Its a good one.

See Chris. Thats why there isnt a reason to crush someones hand. Who needs to be remembered by that?

Russ - I havent run into that issue yet. Most people I've met are pretty good about shaking hands, I understand your point though.


Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 almost 10 years ago

Absolutely Yvette and Dennis. Thanks!

Vickie - Either handshake is no good. The impression is very important.

Rich - Whether we are in flu season or not, I think you need to take the right steps. Wash your hands often and use bacterial soap. I keep it in my car.

Celeste - I tend to agree with you. Its a sign of sincerity, but thats my opinion. Maybe Im wrong too. Others above seem to agree though.

John - I dont know if thats a sign of weakness because you break from a handshake. I think 2-3 seconds is good enough. Anything too long is just awkward.


Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 almost 10 years ago

Good for you Maureen. You should let them know thats 'too much'. LOL

Lynda - Don't worry about repeating. I like to hear the opinions. Sounds like you have lots of experience shaking hands :-)

Rajeev - I agree that there are some cultures that may not shake hands. I think those are exceptions to the rule and in most cases, they will respect your culture and shake your hand. At least, that is what I have found. Being respectful to their culture is important as well, so I would not insist that they shake your hand.

Thanks Michael I appreciate the double feature.

Jeanie - You are so right. I would not hire them either. You want someone confident, knows the area, and is a professional. I think the soft handshake says a lot.

Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 almost 10 years ago

Irene - The hanky is a good idea. So far, I havent had that issue, but I have come across it with others. Being prepared is important. No need for someone to crush your hand either. What is the point of that?

Clint - Im not sure how I would react to it. I'd probably apologize like I did something wrong. LOL  Im sure you get quite a few surprised faces.

Monica - You make a good point. What is firm to me, may be hard to you. And the other way around for softness. Honestly, I try to match the person that is shaking my hand. If they are much softer, I do not squeeze it. If they squeeze, I'll squeeze a little also, but not in a 'im stronger than you' type manner.

Joe - 'the fish' is the worst!  LOL

Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 almost 10 years ago

Irene - The hanky is a good idea. So far, I havent had that issue, but I have come across it with others. Being prepared is important. No need for someone to crush your hand either. What is the point of that?

Clint - Im not sure how I would react to it. I'd probably apologize like I did something wrong. LOL  Im sure you get quite a few surprised faces.

Monica - You make a good point. What is firm to me, may be hard to you. And the other way around for softness. Honestly, I try to match the person that is shaking my hand. If they are much softer, I do not squeeze it. If they squeeze, I'll squeeze a little also, but not in a 'im stronger than you' type manner.

Joe - 'the fish' is the worst!  LOL

Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 almost 10 years ago