Handshake photo from ShutterstockLast week we witnessed a very scrutinized handshake at Nelson Mandela’s celebration. Unless you have been unplugged for the past week, you saw Obama and Raul Castro, brother to Fidel, grasp hands. No matter what side of the political fence you are on, we have seen the power of touch and significance of a handshake. What better time to breakdown this interaction starter?

Most people understand the basic “reading” opportunities from a handshake. The infamous “dead fish” or limp handshake often a sign of introversion, lack of confidence and a form of insecurity. Then there is the “death grip” which signifies either dominance or the person is actually insecure but knows that confident people have firm handshakes, so they over compensate. This first interaction piece can be a first read on the core of the person. It can also help you build better connections in your dialogue.

Read and adjust

If you are about to have a conversation with someone who you are meeting for the first time and the person comes in with a “palms pointing down” handshake – he is probably going to have a desire to run the meeting. Feel free to give them the lead but make sure you project a non-combative confidence that lets him know you are good at what you do too.

If the initial handshake was weak or “palms pointing more towards the air”, then that may be a sign that you will have to take the lead in the conversation. This person may need a little bit more warm up time to be comfortable. Don’t dominate the conversation in this case, ask opinion based questions to get them more involved early.

If you are person in clear power and you want to make the person you are meeting feel more welcomed, then slightly adjust your palms to a 45 degree angle – palms up – but still proceed with firm handshake.

Eye contact and stating your name

Great – you have a confident but not overbearing handshake down. Next step is to ensure solid eye contact during the handshake. I remember one time I was in an important meeting and I went to introduce myself. My handshake was good but I accidentally bumped into a briefcase that was on the ground and my eye-contact was thrown off as I was caught looking down. I felt as though as I was playing from behind in the rest of the meeting.

Another important part of the handshake in an initial introduction is stating both your first and last name. Too many professionals only say their first name. In a business setting you always state your first and last name because you are building a reputation for yourself. This is a very common mistake.

Can’t resist a handshake

If someone sticks out there hand inviting you to a handshake, chances are you won’t resist. Try it. It doesn’t matter if it is your nemesis. Extend your hand to someone and tell them NOT to shake it. Weird. Old school sales geniuses understand this and would build their approaches around it. Next time you are making a phone call or trying to make a virtual initial contact, change your approach and think as if you are just extending your hand through the phone or computer. Make the call or email about an interaction and start to a relationship not the product or service at hand. This might make your sales cycle longer but could make it more effective. Harder to say no to handshake and personal introduction then it is to the deal of the week, Build into your LinkedIn introductions or emails the opportunity to shake hands and connect in person to learn more about each other.

Hard to tell from the video footage if Obama or Raul Castro extended their hand first, but it was clear one of them couldn’t resist.

Eddy is the director of a unique training and development collaborative platform that services financial planning firms in the northeast where he has arguably worked with more Gen Y financial professionals than anyone in the country over the past four years. He is also the founder of The Growth Game, LLC. a professional development company and has authored a book that holds the same title. Eddy is a certified coach and specializes in helping professionals develop sales skills, leadership approaches and implement business development activity systems. Eddy has served on a number of national field training committees and has had articles published in industry leadership journals.