chill out with the bone-crushing handshakes

A reader writes:

I’m wondering if this is something that I am out of touch with or if this is something that is bothering others worldwide. I recently finished a few months of interviewing for various positions and attending close-out meetings for my previous job. About 99% of the time when I shook someone’s hands, they practically squeezed my hand to death. Now, I know all about having a firm handshake and how it symbolizes a firm and trustworthy attitude, but geez can everyone loosen up PLEASE! I try to go in with a firm handshake mentality but the other participant is always firmer than mine, to the point where my hand is left to just take the beating.

Is it me? Do I need to do hand crunches at home to beef up my handshake prowess? Do I look like a non-firm handshaker who isn’t taking things seriously?

This is super silly of me, but I think about it every time I shake someone’s hand. I just have no desire to squeeze their hands that hard but it is always done to me. Can this serve as a PSA to all that firm handshakes does not mean to the death!! Or, again, maybe I am the weakling who needs to beef up…

Yeah, some people seem to think that “firm handshake” means “try to squeeze the marrow of the person’s bones.” Is it a power play? Do they not feel pain? I have no idea.

Of course, the other extreme of this is the overly limp handshake that some men do with women, which seems to convey “your delicate bird-like bones cannot handle the immense power of my hand, and thus we will just briefly hold hands in a slightly creepy way.”

Anyway, no, it’s probably not you — although I guess it could be you if you’re encountering it 99% of the time. If you really want to collect more data, you could make some friends shake hands with you and help you calibrate where you fall relative to other people’s sense of firm vs. bone-crushing.

There’s also this tip from Lifehacker, which says that if you touch the inside of the other person’s wrist with your finger, it will align your knuckles in a way that means they can’t be crushed together.

Frankly, if you think about it, the whole mythology around handshakes is kind of odd. Plenty of people with firm handshakes aren’t confident and trustworthy or whatever else it’s supposed to indicate, and plenty of people with more delicate handshakes are. It’s pretty strange that we’ve collectively decided to read so much into a ritualized physical gesture.

{ 331 comments… read them below }

  1. Marillenbaum*

    Ouch! LW, I sympathize, and hate it when someone treats a handshake like their own person strongman competition.

    1. Green Goose*

      I’ve always been tempted to point out how weird it is for people to crush hands when shaking them. Its rude and kind of aggressive but it does seem to happen pretty often – I’m curious if they are either unaware or doing it purposely which is also bad. Has anyone ever commented on someone else crushing their hand when shaking it and had it end positively? Like a joke? “That’s quite the death grip you are perfecting..” Like the OP, I don’t usually say anything but it annoys me.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        One time in my personal life I said, “Wow, that’s a FIRM handshake, almost like you’re compensating for something, haha.” Probably won’t work in a professional setting though.

        1. Mary Dempster*

          Or maybe they’re just used to gripping things more intensely than you do(usually physical/manual labor jobs) and aren’t in fact trying to make up for anything?

          1. Ann O'Nemity*

            I call b.s. on this. It’s far more likely that someone with a crushingly painful handshake is doing it on purpose. I can’t believe that they don’t know their own strength and are walking through life accidentally hurting/damaging everything their hands come into contact with.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yeah. I’ve shaken hands with manual laborers, rock climbers, and college quarterbacks—they all know what an appropriate level of pressure is for a handshake. I don’t think this is a cultural or class issue in most cases.

              I don’t know if death grips mean someone is compensating for something, but people often joke about aggression as a mask for compensation without it being a personal attack. It’s certainly a dig, but I think it’s meant like ribbing, and I’d be alarmed if someone took that kind of dig to heart in this specific context.

            2. M-C*

              Totally agree they’re doing it on purpose, it has nothing to do with actual strength. What it does have to do with is culture. I have shaken thousands of French hands without ever an incident. But I basically avoid shaking American hands because the odds of injury are so
              high. Grrr. I am now rudely yanking my hands away if I stray into one of those death grips that only manage to make you look like insecure twits overcompensating

          2. Anna*

            Or maybe part of being a human is knowing when you need to grip things harder than others. In fact, I would hazard they know not to pick up small children and animals with a grip like they use in handshakes. People who crush your hand in a handshake generally know exactly what they’re doing. The why may be a question, but they aren’t stupid.

            1. the gold digger*

              This is one of the big challenges with robotic picking is that the end effector (ie, the hand) needs to be able to pick up a peach and an anvil. That is, if you have to change effectors frequently because the items to be picked up and moved vary in delicacy, you lose the productivity gained by using a robot.

              1. the gold digger*

                This (bad sentence construction) is what you get when you are driven to comment while one hand is holding the phone and a cat is headbutting your other arm.

            1. Mary Dempster*

              Well I call BS on people saying their hands were hurting for days afterwards because of a strong handshake. At best, a couple of seconds. I just really dislike the implication that they’re obviously doing it to make up for ‘something’ – when in fact, there’s actually plenty of people who just have a much stronger grip than others and would never intentionally try to “crush” someone’s hand or hurt them in any way.

              1. Allie*

                You must be lucky not to have experienced tendinitis or other problems (I broke my wrist when I was a kid and then stressed it with paino). I once had a flare up that lasted a month because my wrist went in a funny position while I was draining pasta. My left wrist is the bad one but I can easily see a flare up caused by a handshake.

              2. MegaMoose, Esq*

                Can’t it be true that *some* people have a stronger than usual grip, while other people are actively trying to crush hands? Because it seems like a lot of people have experienced the actively-crushing-hand shake.

                It’s also not very nice to call people liars. It kind of tends to turn people off of your entire argument, in fact.

                1. Mary Dempster*

                  Well, someone called “BS” on me just above, so…? I guess it’s just not possible at all that someone could have a stronger grip and absolutely no agenda in trying to hurt the other person. I really think that equating a stronger handshake that’s NOT bone-crushing with hugging with someone until they can’t breath is insane.

                2. Mary Dempster*

                  In fact, you sort of made my point. I think it’s much more rare than people seem to be assuming here that someone is shaking your hand so intensely that they’re trying to hurt you or show dominance.

                3. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  There’s a distinct difference in calling BS on someone’s opinion (you believe it is rarely done on purpose) and calling BS on someone statement about their own experience (they say this has happened to them before). I am happy to agree that there are multiple reasons behind the crushing statements, but, somewhat ironically, you may not realize how aggressively you are coming across.

              3. Green Goose*

                I think that maybe you are focusing too much on the speculation of “making up for something” since it is just an assumption on the part of the person who is being physically hurt, albeit in a small way, in a professional setting. Just speaking from personal experience, I have wondered in the moment WHY the other person would crush my hand in theirs because it just seems so inappropriate. It makes me wonder (but I don’t know for sure because I can’t read minds) what is their agenda for doing so, are they unaware (seems unlikely) or are they using a weird loophole to hurt someone in a small way so if they were called out on it they could claim that they were “just stronger” than the person they are shaking hands with.
                I feel like the same people who shake hands too hard because they are “too stronger” should then accidentally hug people until they are out of breath, which I doubt they do.
                But for the people who are actually unaware, hopefully if someone said that their hand hurt for days afterward, that would make them aware in the future to be gentler when shaking hands.

                1. Mary Dempster*

                  Of course I was focusing on that, that’s what the comment to which I was replying to said! :)

              4. drashizu*

                When I was in middle school my school’s principal used to do all sorts of weird stuff to try to “teach” kids about professional norms (that we were too young to really have to worry about yet, but that’s another issue). He had this weird complex about how it was his job to teach kids to the “tough” “life lessons” that they weren’t learning in the classroom.

                One time that involved him, a 50+ year old man with a gym membership he clearly used often, standing at the front of the lunch line and not letting kids pass him to get their lunches until they gave him a sufficiently “firm” handshake. I happened to be buying my lunch that day and went into it trying my 13-year-old best to grip as hard as I could. And he ****ing crushed my hand. As in, squeezed so hard it caused a stabbing pain between my metacarpals.

                And yeah, it literally did hurt for several days afterward whenever I had to flex my hand to do something. This is clearly a thing that can happen, because it happened to me.

                (If I could go back in time with my adult knowledge and do it over again, I’d make a fuss and complain about it, but he got away with it because it’s easy to lord your power over middle schoolers who have no idea what is and isn’t acceptable treatment, especially ones who don’t get to eat lunch unless you “let” them…)

          3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            I’m a rock climber. My hands are strong enough to break bones. My handshake is firm but in no way painful or overly intense.

            That said, the last time some dudebro type tried to crack my knuckles, I did clamp down hard enough to make him sweat.

      2. paul*

        I’ve had that happen to me once; I was somewhat mortified because I really didn’t mean to do it.

        OTOH, I’ve also had people try to do it as a dominance display or some dumb thing (which doesn’t end well; I love deadlifting and kettlebell work so my grip is stronger than average).

      3. VroomVroom*

        I’ve actually, out of intense surprise/pain, said “OW!” before to a colleague. He was absolutely mortified! It wouldn’t have been terribly painful, only slightly uncomfortable/firm except for that I was wearing a ring on my right hand and he crushed my bones against the ring in a very painful way. I also have very skinny/bony fingers – it may have been less uncomfortable if I had more padding between my actual bones and the ring. I was able to play it off that it was just the ring combined with my bony fingers – we were in a large group and it was quite embarrassing, but it was really a reflex reaction to pain!

        I’m a young woman but I’ve been told I have a pretty firm handshake (for a lady, har har) but I’m no bone crusher.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          My husband does this to me sometimes (on accident) when we’re holding hands. He’ll crush my ring against my fingers and I don’t have skinny fingers and it hurts! It can definitely be an unintentional thing. However, I do think a lot of people could lay off on the bone crushing hand shakes…

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’ve done this before (said “ow!” or “ouch!”), not on purpose. The downside is that it draws attention to the death gripper, but it also has the benefit of making the other person aware that they’re going overboard (I do think some people don’t realize what they’re doing until they’ve already committed to a firmer-than-normal grip).

          And I have Fraggle-Rock-fingers, but they also hurt if someone is gripping so hard that it grinds my ring into my phalanges.

        3. AllTheFiles*

          If I know I’m dealing with a death gripper I swing my ring around so the person would be jabbing it into their hand if they tried their usual handshake.

    2. OhNo*

      I hate it too, plus I’ve always found it super weird. I have a firm grip (very firm – side effect of gripping the wheels of my wheelchair all day every day), but I don’t feel the need to show off that fact to every person I meet. One brief squeeze is usually more than sufficient to convey “firm handshake”. People really don’t need to mimic a boa constrictor’s sustained squeeze.

    3. 42*

      Here’s my tip from a woman with a firm handshake (and I’ve even taught this to my kids):

      When you reach for the other person’s hand, the goal is to first settle in to the web of the other person’s thumb. Lock your thumb-web with theirs, and then close your hand. No need to get all testosterone with the actual grip…the secure thumb web lock gives the secure, firm grip you’re shooting for.

      Then, look ’em in the eye.

  2. Tomato Frog*

    The fetishizing of firm handshakes has bothered me for a long time, especially since internet comments gave me insight into how many people take this really seriously. I’m hard-working and trustworthy (I swear!) and I had to teach myself to have firmer handshakes. So did I suddenly become a more upright person after I taught myself that?

    I also get weirded out by how disgusted people seem to be by weak handshakes. Someone is briefly not gripping your hand as hard as you think they should — it’s not like they’re leaning forward and breathing heavily on you, or gently caressing your face, or something genuinely strange.

    1. Sadsack*

      I am one of those people who dislikes limp handshakes. Not sure why. When someone just flops out their limp hand and I have to try to create the handshake with it, it is like they plopped a dead fish into my hand. Perhaps they think I am going to bow and kiss their hand? I have no idea.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        There’s a middle ground between a totally limp “dead fish” handshake and a handshake that doesn’t involve gripping the other person’s hand firmly, and I wish we could all settle in that area.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Yes! I’ve been talking about this with men friends recently about how a good handshake is one that I don’t even register – it’s so normal it just passes without comment. Too strong or too limp are nasty in different ways, but I always wonder why people do either, because it feels like more effort than the standard.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, but the limp fish handshake feels gross in my hand. Like, am I supposed to caress your hand in a little hand-cave (made up of my hands) to keep yours warm?

          A “weak” handshake is fine. I assume folks have arthritis or other reasons for a gentle handshake. I also don’t mind the “grip only the fingers” kind of handshake that older women sometimes do. But the complete floppy hand version makes me feel meh.

          1. Mabel*

            My mom does the handshake with only her fingers thing. It feels so weird, like there’s some reason she doesn’t want to touch the other person with her full hand. I assumed that women were taught this way of shaking hands back in the day. I’m curious why the “man’s way” of shaking hands wasn’t OK for ladies.

            1. Mookie*

              I had to train myself not to do this, and I’m a very late Gen-Xer. I think physical contact like that, on the one hand, makes me nervous and frightened that I might impose on the other person if I hold their hand too long*, but on the other hand (oh god, this terrible, unintentional punning) I end up initiating most handshakes. I suspect I learned this from adult men who never properly shook my hand as a teenager and young woman but instead gave me the old finger clutch routine. It’s a hard habit to break and I tend to feel inadequate or cowardly when I yield to it.

              *I feel the same way about eye contact with strangers or casual acquaintances, like I’m weirding them out or being too intense.

      2. Tomato Frog*

        Ha, I almost mentioned dead fish comparisons. As someone with sweaty palms, though, you’re going to get a lot closer to that “dead fish” experience if I press your hand harder.

        But it’s not like I like limp handshakes. I just realize they are very unlikely to mean anything or be in any way intentional, no matter what my immediate emotional reaction is.

      3. Jess*

        I’m the same. I think it’s b/c it feels like less of mutual exchange- as in they’re not shaking my hand, but giving me their hand. So then I’m the only one doing the shaking. And it feels weird to shake a lifeless hand.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! That’s what it is. It puts all the onus on you to make it a handshake, because otherwise it will just be the two of you limply holding hands.

          1. Myrin*

            I’ve been laughing about “The two of you limply holding hands” for the last three minutes.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I’ve been trying to visualize this (limply holding hands), and it’s totally cracking me up.

              1. Mookie*

                It’s very Victorian, like you’re both suffering from airs and the only thing that keeps you from collapsing onto the nearest fainting couch, shamefully losing your lorgnette to the William Morris carpet at your feet, is this tiny little symbiosis. Edward Gorey would have fun with this one.

          2. Nolan*

            YES. Your description of the overly limp handshake raised my hackles right up! I have a good handshake and I’m equally angered and grossed out anytime someone greets me with a limp fish!

            I just respond to death grips by squeezing back, though my hands are tiny so that’s not terribly effective. I’ve noticed that the squeezers also like holding on and shaking longer than usual, which I find more unpleasant than the squeezing.

      4. NoMoreMrFixit*

        I have chronic tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Power grip handshakes are literally painful and can leave me disabled for hours. It means I have an usually weak handshake compared to most guys. Hardly makes me untrustworthy and it really annoys me to no end the way people automatically assume that there’s something lacking in my character merely because I don’t grab somebody’s hand like a monkey reaching for a piece of fruit.

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah, I think the whole “firm handshake = trustworthy” is a weird concept. My sister is a hiring manager and she actually believes this. I think it’s bizarre. I hate having my hand crushed by men when they are shaking, but I also hate the limp fingertip-only shake that some people do. Let’s just briefly clasp hands and be done with it.

          1. Sadsack*

            I actually never heard of this before. I can’t believe that anyone judges people by their handshake, other than to decide I didn’t like shaking their hand.

            1. LBK*

              Yeah, I can get on board with it implying a certain level of confidence, but trustworthiness is definitely a stretch.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Oh, that’s interesting. I’ve never associated a “weak” handshake with lack of trustworthiness. I wonder how widespread that belief is? I assume it’s common enough because people often bring it up, but I don’t know how many people are like your sister and truly believe this to be gospel.

            It seems pretty ableist.

      5. Business Cat*

        I was taught in the 6th grade to give a firm handshake in what I think I remember was an English class. For whatever reason it stuck with me forever (seemed particularly important as a lady businessperson?) and my handshake is firm but not overly so. I also find limp handshakes icky for all the reasons you and the other commenters mentioned.

      6. AGirlCalledFriday*

        This is what worries me. I spent some time in the middle east, and every time I met a woman, we would gently clasp hands in greeting. I got very used to it. Then I lived in Japan where I was mostly bowing. Back in America I rarely shake hands, so I often default to the middle eastern clasp. I KNOW it feels weird to the other person but it’s happening before I even realize it!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I actually think that’s ok. It’s also common in South Asia to do a handshake where the person who initiates the handshake holds the other person’s hand with both hands (shake with your right, clasp the knot that your hands make with your left). It’s certainly not the norm, but I think a Middle East style gentle-clasp or a two-handed shake should be ok.

          1. Bibliovore*

            I do a two hand clasp. It is not “weak” but it prevents the death grip that could cause damage to my already fragile hands.

          2. JustaTech*

            The only time I’ve gotten that kind of hand shake it was very weird and creepy, because the guy had put his business card in my hand, then did the 2-hand thing for way too long. He was drunk and hitting on me something fierce, and generally slimy guy.
            Thus I associate 2-handed hand shake with “creep”. It’s good to know there are non-creepy people who do it too!

      7. nonegiven*

        I barely touch, just with the tips of my fingers, if I can. I am that jumpy about having my hand crushed again.

    2. Mary Dempster*

      I am so disgusted by weak handshakes. Because it’s not a handshake, it’s at best letting someone hold your hand. Or it make me think you want me to … kiss your hand, or something.

      With a hand shake you should actually shake someones hand!

      My husband has a VERY strong handshake because he’s a metal worker and is frankly, just stronger than a lot of people.

      1. Michele*

        But he doesn’t have to be that strong all of the time. Frankly, it is disrespectful to squeeze someone’s hand so hard that it might hurt.

        1. Mary Dempster*

          Not when you’re not doing it on purpose. I think it’s significantly more disrespectful to dead fish it.

          1. Michele*

            I don’t buy that he doesn’t do it on purpose or doesn’t know his own strength. Does he hurt you on a regular basis? Does he hurt children? Does he crush glassware? If not, he is doing it on purpose.

            1. Aurion*

              Come now. When I’m holding a glass I can hook it with one finger or two and lift it up using my arm/shoulders. I’m not required to grip it at all, so the tactile feedback is different. And frankly, I can grip my mug a lot harder than I would a handshake and the mug wouldn’t protest, never mind break.

              1. Michele*

                Fine. An egg then. Can you get an egg out of the carton without crushing it? You use your hands for everything. You know how strong they are. There is no excuse for gripping someone else’s hand hard enough to hurt them.

                1. Aurion*

                  Do you squeeze eggs on the regular? I’m baffled why you’re using eggs, children, and puppies as analogies when none of them uses the specific grip/squeeze tactile sensation as a handshake. People generally modulate their pressure based on the object we’re touching and the specific action I’m trying to do. If I were trying to squeeze an egg, I guarantee it would break long before I have reached the pressure threshold of my average handshake.

                  The rare times I handle children (haven’t done so in a long time), I’m supporting their weight from underneath, or talking to them. My grip strength is irrelevant. I pet puppies and kittens and card my fingers through their fur. My grip strength is irrelevant.

                  I have yet to hear a complaint saying I’ve gripped someone’s hand hard enough to hurt them. I have had comments saying that the recipient was surprised by my strength. For all I know they weren’t expecting diminutive women to have a good grip.

            2. Mary Dempster*

              Yes, he hurts me, children, and crushes glassware on a regular basis. That’s very relevant to a handshake!

              The point is his handshake is significantly stronger than most people I’ve found and he has no idea he’s doing it. Calm yourselves.

              1. Allie*

                If he does that he needs some hand training. Taking up a musical instrument maybe. Control is not the antithesis to strength.

              2. Ann O'Nemity*

                If that’s the case, physical therapy may be worth considering. Accidentally hurting people – including children(!) – makes this sound like a medical issue. And I’d say that’s super rare, certainly not the case for most people who do the crushing handshakes.

              3. Mary Dempster*

                Oh goodness, it was 100% sarcasm, my husband does NOT hurt me or children because he’s “too strong.”


            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Hey now, we don’t need to attack or interrogate Mary about her husband’s handshake grip, and we don’t need to pathologize why his grip is so strong.

              She also didn’t say he’s crushing people’s hands, but rather, that his handshake is “VERY strong,” which I interpret to mean “firmer than a normal firm handshake, but not out of the bounds of an appropriate level of handshake-grip.” I agree that people with strong handshakes can retrain themselves to lighten up, but we don’t need to vilify the man for not having adjusted his grip.

          2. TL -*

            Most strong people learn to control their strength. My brothers practice shaking (and hurting) my hands a lot but now they all know how hard is too hard for the average person.

            If you are stronger than most people and know it, you should actually spend time moderating your physical interactions so that you don’t accidentally hurt someone. Some of the gentlest people I’ve met are overmuscled men who are acutely aware that they have a strong grip/much strength.

            1. Michele*

              Yep. I have shaken hands with body builders and rock climbers who managed to not squeeze too hard.

              1. Mary Dempster*

                He does moderate it. I’ve had him shake my hand as he would if he just met me, and if he was meeting with a fellow steel worker. It’s harder, but it’s not debilitating, and I’m not a very big or strong person. I don’t buy that all these people are in intense pain for days afterwards because someone held their hand a little hard. But it’s still more intense than most people.

                1. Lablizard*

                  Only time the super strong grip aches more than a few seconds is if I an wearing rings on my right hand. That can get painful with a real death grip type.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  There are people who absolutely are in intense pain for days because of the strength of a handshake, particularly people with joint/nerve problems or inflammatory disorders or lupus or any of a dozen or more common medical conditions. So I think it’s worth extending the same credibility you’re asking people to give you when you vouch for your husband’s grip to those who say they experience significant pain when people fail to adequately moderate their grip.

                  But I also don’t think anyone’s talking about someone who holds your hand “a little hard”—people are talking about the death grip, which is pretty distinct. And I think it’s ok to criticize, share stories/experiences of pain, or offer advice on how to avoid death-gripping someone’s hand.

              2. The Cosmic Avenger*

                This. I like to fidget with bottle caps to bend them in half between my thumb and forefinger, so I can safely say that I have at least above average grip strength, but when shaking someone’s hand I simply take my cue from the other person’s grip. I could say it’s because I have very dear friends with osteogenesis imperfecta and severe rheumatoid arthritis, but really it’s more because my default when meeting someone new is to look for cues, because I’ve always been aware that others are not necessarily just like me.

      2. M-C*

        Now we’re coming to the point of all this verbal aggression.. Mary’s married to a chronic offender and looking to excuse him. Fine for you Mary, but it’s not convincing to the rest of us.

        Let me point out there may be a linguistics basis for misunderstanding here- you’re not meant to do any actual shaking any more than crushing. It’d help if y’all thought of it as a handclasp instead? It’s intended as a social action rather than a display of aggression.

    3. JB (not in Houston)*

      When I first read your comment, I thought you said “it’s not like they’re leaning forward breathing heavily into your mouth.” I don’t know why I read it that way, but I thought–yeah, that is definitely worse.

      1. LBK*

        Good lord, this comment section is killing me today. I just pictured someone doing this as they greeted a colleague and it’s hysterical.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I was horrified at the thought. Then I laughed at the image. Then I thought about it happening to me and I’m back to being horrified.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          I was in a phone meeting when I read this and I had to mute myself really fast to keep from bursting out laughing right in the middle of the meeting.

      2. Tomato Frog*

        I… I actually typed that first? And then edited it to something slightly less weird. Do we have a psychic bond?

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          If so, we both imagine the same kind of horrifying things, and I’m not sure that kind of bond is a good thing.

    4. dr_silverware*

      I think it’s because skin-to-skin touch is such a genuinely powerful social and emotional thing. And you never ever touch your coworkers/businesspeople except for a handshake. So it can be very affecting the touch feels off in some way, or good if it’s a good handshake. Plus, it’s kind of a memetic complaint at this point :)

      1. Saturnalia*

        Oh man, I have the sweatiest hands at work. Also usually cold. When I find myself in a handshake situation at work, I nearly always do the quick swipe down a pant leg on the way to the handshake. It makes me feel slightly ridiculous but I feel like it at least acknowledges that I know my hand is clammy and I’m trying to mitigate? I generally do it with a big genuine smile and a medium firm grip. No one has responded poorly, but maybe they’re secretly squicking out afterwards?

        1. KatiePie*

          The wipe is appreciated. But even if you didn’t do it, or it didn’t have much effect, no one should be holding it against you. A clammy handshake squicks me out a little, but I know it’s not the person’s fault, and would never draw a negative conclusion about the person (vs. a death grip handshake that probably could have been controlled). 5 seconds after a clammy handshake I’ve moved on and completely forgotten about it.

    5. Nic*

      I once got a job based on my handshake. It was a teaching job, and apparently I was the only applicant “man enough” (his words) to look the principal in the eyes and give him a “real handshake”.

      There were SO many things wrong at that school…

  3. Kvothe*

    The limp handshake thing definitely weirds me out too, like what about me makes it seem like I can’t handle a normal handshake? I actually don’t know which is worse the hand-crusher or your lady bones can’t take this

    1. Time Bomb of Petulance*

      Personally, I find limp handshakes to be worse. I don’t want to be reminded of a dead fish when trying to shake someone’s hand. ugh

      1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

        Limp handshakes make me want to go the Death Grip Bonecrusher route in retaliation. In general though, I don’t give in to the temptation.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      Isn’t it kind of weird that we can’t effectively norm on this really common thing? We can collectively accept that there is An Order for Boarding an Elevator, but can’t figure out the handshake situation.

      1. fposte*

        I feel like we do have a norm, it’s just that it’s hard to communicate effectively where it is on the spectrum through mere words. Maybe we need a psi measurement for finger grip.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          Seriously, if I was with you now I could quantify it with you. I have had this confirmed by other people who are… into handshakes? Haha. There’s an acceptable range most people agree on, I would say.

          But yeah, no idea how to explain it. Like, firm pressure but no squeezing. The difference between rubbing someone’s shoulders and pinching someone’s traps (which, ow, you’re doing it wrong).

              1. Frozen Up North*

                It is this exactly. Because anytime someone violates that, it really reads as bizarre.

          1. Hrovitnir*

            Haha! Now that did get a double-take, I have no idea what the order for boarding an elevator is.

            Although if it’s what sadsack said – that is generally a good idea… and surprisingly seems to work out pretty well in my experience, unlike similar situations with trains and suchlike.

        2. Jillociraptor*

          As you’re facing the elevator, back left, back right, front left, front right, middle back, middle left, middle right, middle middle, middle front. (Assumes all riders are strangers / not already talking to one another.) This is one of the funny “experiments” we did in grad school to elucidate social norms we didn’t even realize we were following. Ain’t no party like an anthropology party…

          (Though I think I’m remembering that you might not be in the US? If not, I claim no authority over elevator norms outside of my home country!)

          1. Dizzy Steinway*

            You remembered right: I’m in England.

            Here people mostly just try to let each other go first until someone caves.

            1. Gadfly*

              You all also walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk, so it makes sense you also missed the memo on the elevators… ;)

              I did a study abroad in the UK, and didn’t realize until I’d been there a while that Americans tend very strongly to walk on the same side of a sidewalk or aisle that they would drive on if it were a road (so to the right.) It wasn’t as strong for the UK people, but they definitely were primarily to the left. Which just then added to pushy American stereotypes as my fellow Americans continued to push through oncoming people instead of moving to the left…

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                I got told off by American friends for walking on the wrong side of a corridor, in Europe… It was a bit baffling, because there wasn’t anyone coming, but they found my walking on the left a big deal

              2. Annie Moose*

                Aha, you’ve just confirmed something I suspected–I’ve taken a couple of trips to England, and both times I noticed there wasn’t as strong of a preference for what side of the sidewalk/hallway/etc. people walked on. But in the US, everybody walks on the right.

          2. eee*

            hah! I noticed that the other day on the metro. It’s really funny when someone in the early stages walks in with a friend, and then the friend takes middle. It seems to throw everyone off their elevator-filling game.

          3. MegaMoose, Esq*

            You missed one rule: awkwardly wiggle around so the ladies can exit first regardless of actual position in the elevator. Seriously, that’s incredibly common in my area – it’s happened to me TWICE just today – and it drives me bonkers.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That’s my favorite part of the elevator rules. It’s so ridiculous :)

              They’ve run a bunch of experiments that indicate that people tend to stand equidistant from one another in elevators, unless they’re a couple or parent/child. Sometimes I wonder if boarding protocol developed in light of how folks default organize in the elevator.

            2. StrikingFalcon*

              I moved from one part of the country to another and I get tripped up all the time about how things like opening doors and getting on and off elevators and who takes the seat on a bus are gendered here. Why?!

          4. Hrovitnir*

            That’s interesting. I haven’t noticed any particular order (NZ), but it most certainly does go two back corners, two front corners, middle back, middle sides etc. Like a gas filling a chamber (getting as evenly distributed as possible.)

          5. Jessica*

            I hate parties, but apparently that’s because I haven’t been going to anthropology parties, which are clearly the best!

    3. Manders*

      The limp handshake weirds me out too. I think part of what confuses me is that they’re usually not moving their hand at all, so you just kind of have to hold it and guess when it’s ok to drop it.

      I err on the side of a firm handshake because I’m a tiny woman and it’s an easy way to dispel the image that I’m delicate. But I don’t try to crush anyone’s hand and if someone does go for the limp fish I’m extra gentle because I assume they don’t want their hand squeezed at all.

      1. On Fire*

        I’m a woman, and the most bone-crushing handshakes I’ve ever gotten were from women in their 80s. Seriously, it was painful, and I like a firm handshake.

    4. lcsa99*

      I have two younger brothers, so as kids practicing bone-crushing handshakes were definitely a thing. So I can take them. For me, the limp, “I don’t really want to do this” handshakes are worse. If nothing else, the majority of people with the limp handshakes tend to have sweaty palms.

    5. Rey*

      I too strongly dislike people who try to gently hold my hand instead of shaking it, especially when they just actually shook the hand of the guy standing next to me. Sometimes it catches me off guard and I have to just go with it, but when I can I like to respond with my brightest smile and firmest, heartiest handshake (though not crushingly so, hopefully). My hands may look small and dainty, but I have the devil’s own grip strength.

    6. Jamie*

      For me causing me physical pain trumps doing something that could be potentially emotionally upsetting so hand-crusher is definitely worse.

    1. I'd rather be stirred*

      Me too! I sometimes imagine what it would be like if I took the Bob Dole approach – carry a pen in my right hand at all time as an indicator that I can’t shake hands.

      It can be so awkward – I never offer my hand for a shake but I haven’t figured out a way to decline it when someone else goes for it.

      1. JeanB*

        I just say, sorry, can’t shake, hand problems. I don’t think anyone’s ever been offended.

      2. Bea*

        The same way as if you are recovering from a cold.

        “Sorry, I can’t shake your hand, I have a cold/arthritis.”

        I had someone tell me he couldn’t shake because of religious reasons and it was totally fine by me. Most reasonable people know there are lots of reasons others don’t want to shake hands. It’s okay to offer and it’s okay to decline!

      3. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

        Fist-bump the open hand?

        I could see myself cultivating an “eccentricity” like that to avoid something, but it’s definitely not for everyone, and probably inappropriate in a work setting. (Unfortunately)

        1. Lissa*

          This makes me think of when one person tries to fist-bump and the other goes for a high-five — turkey!!

      4. Marty*

        But there are eccentricities that would work at work. For instance, take a page from the Orient, and bow.

        1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

          I’m as white as white gets, so I’d have to make sure I was doing it with respect to the cultures for which it is far more symbolic than just a greeting.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I mean, white people bow, also. They used to do it often until the last 70ish years. :)

    2. Fiorinda*

      I have RSI in my dominant hand, which is hell when it comes to handshakes – too strong a one can give me hours of low-grade aches that slow down my ability to work. I’d rather just skip the handshakes altogether. Smiles and nods are fine as greetings; touch isn’t really necessary for me!

    3. Gen*

      Arthritis, nerve damage and reynauds here. It’s limp and lifeless or nothing at all for me, I literally can’t grip. Even if I could shake someone’s hand firmly my fingers are always so cold that people are likely to pull their hand back in disgust. Which is great because I hate shaking hands- I live in a steel town and all the men seem to think it isn’t a handshake unless it leaves a bruise. Which for me can leave me without the proper use of my hand for a day or two.

  4. DecorativeCacti*

    I never even considered that people offering me a weak handshake were doing so because of my lady hands. I just wrote them off as one of those people who couldn’t tell if a tomato was ripe with their grip.

    1. Mary Dempster*

      I have, and I find it pretty insulting. I actually switched doctors because he would daintily hold my hand like it was a fine piece of china, when all I wanted was a proper handshake. Like I’m some delicate glass rose that can’t be handled? Nope.

      1. Lablizard*

        Handshake intensity is hugely cultural. In my country, we only shake hands with foreigners and touching a stranger is just kind of weird, so we tend to the tentative and limp handshake, unless we have lived abroad or worked with a lot of Europeans, Americans, Canadians, Australians, or New Zealanders

        We are totally ok with kissing the cheek of someone you just meet upon departure and kissing cheeks on greeting and departure with every meeting thereafter and the amount of air between lips and cheek is heavily scrutinized

    2. Bea*

      This is a first for me too. Most weak handshakes I’ve gotten are from other women and old men, I assume they have RA at that age so I didn’t take it personally.

  5. Elizabeth West*

    I hate having my hand crushed, but the corpse-y fish hand is creepy. And women do it too; it’s not just something men do to us. I don’t know if they’ve not been taught to shake hands properly or they just don’t like to, or they’ve had their rings mashed into their flesh and are just being cautious.

    If you can’t shake hands because of arthritis or some other issue, please just say so. It’s not that big a deal. I’m still happy to meet you. :)

    1. TL -*

      I’ve definitely run into the limp handshake a lot more with women than with men – it’s something I really only associate with women, actually!
      I have a stiff/firm handshake – I don’t put pressure on the other person’s hand, but I keep my hand fairly tense so it feels firm. A limp hand tends to flop a little in response and it’s a weird feeling!

      1. Myrin*

        Yes to your first paragraph. And with the men I encounter it, I can usually already tell that it’s going to be like that – they’re mostly hands that already look like a bouquet of shrimps or tiny tentacles and then they unsurprisingly go on to feel like it, too.

        1. On Fire*

          That’s a horrifying but apt description. I grew up in farm country, and my husband is a steel worker. Strong guys, rough hands. When I shake hands with a man whose hands are softer than mine, it makes my skin crawl. Nothing wrong with them, it’s just a different feel from what I *personally* expect/like.

          1. Amadeo*

            Yeah, this is my issue too. My dad is a mechanic with huge rough hands, my uncle and cousins are all farmers with the same strong, rough hands, one grandfather was a farmer, the other a grounds foreman and a jack of all trades, both with rough hands. I honestly don’t know what to think sometimes when I shake the hand of a man whose skin is softer than mine. And like you said, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just…weird to me, personally.

        2. Kathleen Adams*

          Almost all the truly yucky limp handshakes I’ve experienced have been from men. I think the extra yuckiness factor is because with men, the handshake usually isn’t simply limp, though it’s definitely that, too. But in addition, they’ll shift their grip around so that it’s not really a handshake at all but more a kind of manual way of saying, “Dear lady, how delightful to meet you.” I mean, there you both are, in your business apparel and about to discuss the marketing plan or something, and you get this grip so different from a regular handshake that you practically expect the guy to sweep off his feathered hat and bow low over your hand. (I’m not sure how to describe it, but those of you who’ve experienced probably know what I mean.)

          Anyway, when a woman gives a limp handshake, it’s just a limp handshake. But with a man, it’s limp plus it’s often absolutely clear that this is his special Shaking Hands with Ladies handshake. If I’m talking to an elderly gentleman at church, that’s OK. But when I’m meeting someone in my professional capacity, I do not want a special Shaking Hands with a Lady handshake. Jeez, dude, just shake my dang hand already.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I know exactly what you mean by the grip-shift. It’s one step away from how they would hold your hand to kiss it.

          2. Turtle Candle*

            Oh ew, yes, the weird hand caress handshake thing. I don’t have a strong feeling about limp vs. strong handshakes (so long as they aren’t actively painful), but the ‘milady, what a pleasure’ handshake makes me go euuurgh.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              That thing where a creepy guy will hold a woman’s (my) hand gently, and then slide his fingers across her (my) palm as he disengages! Ugh, yuck, I need to wash my hands now – it’s the same kind of guy who’d call a woman “milady”…. I *hate* this, and am always amazed that these guys don’t notice the shudder of revulsion (they probably think I’m trembling with desire)

              1. VintageLydia*

                I have ZERO tact so I’ve definitely given a slightly more socially acceptable version of Jenna Marble’s “Face” (look it up on YouTube. She uses it when creeps don’t take the hint to gtfo.)

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I gave a guy a horrified look when they did this to me—I have NO poker face when someone does something creepy. He looked disoriented; I don’t think he’d realized that what he was doing was creepy. I don’t think he was trying to be coy or flirtatious… he just didn’t seem to understand how truly gross/weird it is for a stranger to lingeringly caress your hand when disengaging from what is otherwise a very business-like handshake.

              2. Kathleen Adams*

                Just thinking about that little slidey thing makes me want to go wash my hands RIGHT NOW.

          3. another person*

            Elderly gentleman at church keep crushing my hands in handshakes! It throws me off. I’m not expecting a bone-crushing shake during the Sign of Peace. Why?!?!?!

            1. Tina*

              Yes! In fact I’ve gotten this almost exclusively from older men and women at church, more than anywhere else. So strange! I wear a ring on my right hand as well, which makes it extra painful.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            YES! And agreed. I run into this more often with women, but when men do it I find it’s usually their Handshake for Ladies. (If I get a limp handshake from a guy, I subtly observe to see if he does it with other men—some do, which I find less problematic.)

            Unrelatedly, I’m still processing Myrin’s bouquet of shrimp tentacles.

    2. Jesmlet*

      I’ve definitely noticed more women do the limp handshake but recent car shopping experience has showed me men do it too and that creeps me out, especially since their hands are usually cold on top of the dead fish feel. I’d rather you give me an awkward wave then shake my hand like you’re touching a dirty rag.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      Yes, I agree that a corpse-y fish hand is worse than a bone-crusher. And I would love it if people with medical reasons not to shake hands felt able to simply say so up front, with no judgement. Especially if the medical reason is a communicable disease ;)

      I also wish that Justin Trudeau would release his handshake prep training regime, so that we could all learn how to deal with the bone-crushing power handshake types too!

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        It would be nice if everyone could just say so upfront, and I’ll certainly do so if it’s something communicable, but I don’t really want to announce that I have arthritis to every single person I shake hands with. I mean, you generally shake hands with someone the first time you meet them, and laying my medical history out there for someone whose name I just learned is not something I want to do. People have a bizarre range of reactions to the announcement that someone young has arthritis, and I don’t want to deal with 95% of those reactions. I’d rather people just stop crushing other peoples’ hands. There’s no need to! It’s not a strength contest.

        That article is hilarious.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          I really think you should be able to just say that you prefer not to shake hands without explaining, but I know there’s a possibility people will be super weird about that too. Seems possibly better than being weirded out by your handshake and potentially hurting you, but I appreciate it might feel too awkward to go with.

          1. StrikingFalcon*

            Hm yeah I probably could. To be honest, I haven’t encountered the death grip often enough to feel like I need to abstain from shaking hands. I think my handshake is pretty normal – I do actually shake the other person’s hand. I don’t think the limp fish handshake has anything to do with arthritis, although it’s certainly possible there could be a health issue involved for some people. If that were the case, yeah I agree it would be better to just decline.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Would it be weird to use the South Asian/East Asian version of a handshake, instead? (A slight bow, or hands together with a slight bow—I know that sounds cultural appropriation-y, but I’ve seen it work in some settings in a non-offensive way.) Or to say that you’re sick (even if it’s not a cold/flu)? But yes, it sucks, and it’s unfortunate that folks want an explanation for why you won’t shake hands. I’m sorry :(

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Bwahahaha, my first reaction to this letter was a flashback of the video of Trump shaking Abe’s hand for way too long while simultaneously appearing to be dragging Abe out of his seat.

        (Also, that article was hilarious).

    4. DecorativeCacti*

      Women definitely do it more than men, but my go to example is my former doctor. I know he had a firm grip because minutes after the handshake he would poke whatever part of me was hurting and it would feel like holes were being bored through my skull. Maybe that was just the sinusitis.

      I’m generally uncomfortable with touching other people (other than very close friends). I can deal with a hand shake, but when it’s more “gently holding hands” than actually shaking I’m uncomfortable.

  6. Jenn*

    I was going to say the possibly apocryphal origin of the handshake, to show you are not holding a sword, no longer applies. But with the rise of smartphones maybe this has new relevance. No, I am not composing an email to have you fired or about to take an embarrassing video for social media, friend!

    1. only acting normal*

      In addition to the ‘not holding a sword’ thing, you were only supposed to shake hands the first time you were introduced. If you wanted to shake someone’s hand the second time you met it was a huge insult because it suggested you needed further proof they weren’t about to run you through with their sword. :)

    2. VintageLydia*

      I did not know that! Extra funny to me because my instructors talk about how the proper grip for a sword is a “handshake” grip (as opposed to a “hammer” grip.) Makes sense! It was a sword grip all along!

  7. Ima NuttyBoss*

    “Your delicate bird-like bones cannot handle the immense power of my hand, and thus we will just briefly hold hands in a slightly creepy way.”

    **snort** BEST. LINE. EVER.

    1. LBK*

      I mean, when you get down to it, that’s all any handshake is. What a strange convention we somehow developed centuries ago and just agreed as a species would be A Thing.

      1. Purest Green*

        It is at least preferable over the way many other animals acquaint themselves with each other, vis-a-vis butt sniffing.

  8. Jaguar*

    I’ve been told I have a strong handshake after shaking hands with people from time to time, although I’m not deliberately adding force or anything – I grab pull doors harder. I’m always kind of surprised when it happens – my internal monologue is something to the effect of, “Wait, really?” I think some level of it is just absentmindedness or not knowing their own strength, not some power play. But I always shake hands with a big smile and trying to engage the person and part of my whole intent, including not passively engaging in a handshake, is to offer familiarity and put people at ease: yes, I am interested in meeting you. There are the ashen-faced, stoic handshakers that death grip and I can’t speak to whatever’s going on with them.

    I’m always really thrown off by the limp handshake. It feels like someone’s offered me a jellyfish and oh, wow, I’m going to have treat this a lot more delicately than I thought. It really throws me off guard for a second.

  9. Machiamellie*

    I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which is a degenerative joint condition. I’ve shaken hands several times in the past few months where I was caused severe wrist pain due to people shaking hands too firmly. Usually male applicants for sales/business development which is what we’re hiring for currently. At least thankfully my right wrist (dominant hand) is a bit stronger than my left.

    1. JeanB*

      Shaking hands doesn’t come up a lot for me at my current job, but I have to just politely say “hand problem, can’t shake” to people who do want to shake. I don’t have the same condition but if my hand gets squeezed too hard, it’s pretty much useless until I go home and put it in the wonderful hand heaters I have.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I do wish we could come up with some kind of cultural normal where you shake firmly enough to not be limp but not so hard you could in anyway call it gripping. I’m just thinking of someone having to say over and over again that they can’t shake hands because of a medical condition, and since nobody enjoys the death grips or the “please hold this passive blob for a moment” handshakes, I’m not sure why we’ve never been able to meet in the middle.

          1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

            I’m all for polite gestures that involve no touching!

            For those that like to power-play things (bone-crushing for that reason, or the high-fivers that try and break your friggin’ hand with the force…), it’s a hilarious image to try and out-bow someone. How far would it go? Who can bend in half?

            1. Marty*

              That goes the opposite direction. The goal would be to perform the minimum that might be considered a bow. A head nod perhaps, with a haughty facial expression.

            2. An Ominous*

              You laugh, but “bowing contests” are totally a thing in Japan. I’ve seen it in my own workplace or groups of people from an office parting ways at a train station after they went out to dinner or something. Or even better, when there’s a visitor in the group. The winner is the last person to bow. There are multiple rounds as people face each other bowing lower and lower, then not even going up all the way before the next one. This is done to a chorus of “Thank you so much,” “Thank you for all your help,” “I truly appreciated the chance to speak to you,” “No, the pleasure of hosting the meeting was all ours,” “I so much look forward to the next meeting.” After several minutes, the first party to leave will merely start shuffling back, starting their departure with up to a dozen more bows of varying depth, always careful to keep an eye on whether they will have the last bow. Depending on how close the ticket gate is, this may be followed by a short encore before the leave-taker rushes to take their train home.

              I loved to watch these and found it surprisingly easy to participate in myself. Seriously, bowing is world’s superior to handshakes. No germs, no cold hands, no sweating into other people’s hands, no potential to violate personal boundaries. Instead of arbitrarily assigning meaning to grip strength, we’d get to arbitrarily assign meaning to the angle of bowing and how straight a person’s back is. Much more civilized.

              1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

                That’s amazing. It’s like a politeness dance.

                Here in America, we’ve let a lot of etiquette go by the wayside (and much of it for good reason!), but I would love to re-institute some of it. Nothing that was inherently attached to gender roles, but just in general.
                I like the idea of etiquette rules that apply to different situations because for me, that means I can know ahead of time how I’m expected to behave, beyond currently “approved” public behavior, in a new situation rather than trusting myself to just feel out the room, or resort to excessive politeness (not particularly prized here that I’ve seen).

                I’ve got some old Miss Manner’s books (she’s wonderfully snarky, but oh-so-polite!). I should go through them and just start modeling the stuff I want to see again. See if anybody else starts the social mimicry.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            There’s also a substantial impact on public health (bowing instead of shaking hands decreases cold/flu and other germ transmission by quite a bit).

    2. (different) Rebecca*

      Hello, fellow Zebra. I’ve got ring braces now, and I can’t tell if that’s going to make it better, or worse…

  10. Namast'ay In Bed*

    I HATE the limp handshake. I also hate when someone grabs me by the fingers to shake my hand. Whyyyy.

    1. Hrovitnir*

      Oo! The sales manager at my partner’s work does that – not only that, but somehow manages to be limp and too squeezy at the same time. My partner’s pretty sure it’s some super weird power play, based on the guy’s personality. *shudder*

    2. Nolan*

      HANDshake! Use my WHOLE. DAMN. HAND.

      This post has made me realize I have stronger opinions about handshakes than I previously thought…

  11. H.C.*

    I’d still take a too-firm or too-soft handshake over a fist bump, though. (Though if I’m greeting someone who has a habit of doing either, I’ll try to prevent it by greeting with a wave instead.)

    1. Marillenbaum*

      At OldJob, I would switch from handshake to fist bump during cold and flu season, because I was interviewing bunches of high schoolers who operated under the mistaken impression that it was less rude to spread their germs than to simply refrain with a quick “Under the weather, but it’s good to meet you!”; it’s also how I got strep for the first time at 25. (Side note: I once had a student refrain from shaking with a “Not sick, but my palms are sweaty–sorry!” and I gave him a bump to his interview score for being considerate)

    2. Purest Green*

      Could I ask, why? I assumed many people would find fist bumps to be less awkward than handshakes.

      1. Anonymous 40*

        Could be generational, maybe? To me, fist bumps are very casual. Fine for social situations and coworkers you know well, but not equivalent to a handshake, particularly in a social situation. I’d put fist bumps in the same category as a high five.

      2. H.C.*

        To me it feels more like a sports team or frat greeting gesture, not to mention the awkward potential of grabbing someone’s fist when a handshaker meets a fistbumper, which I’ve seen happened a few times.

        But… YMMV depending on workplace culture (I’d imagine fistbumps being more acceptable in a casual tech start-up environment, for example.)

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OMG I love fist bumps, especially if they’re accompanied by excessive routines, like “blowing it up.” I would definitely prefer a fist bump to a limp-fish handshake.

        But it’s true that they’re not particularly formal. :)

      4. Lissa*

        Aah, fistbumps! I used to not mind/like them, but I know a couple of guys who do them *all the time* and it’s really super awkward. Now I am less a fan. At work it would feel weird, like — if you don’t want to shake, that’s fine (I’m not super into it eiher), but the fistbump instead to me sort of makes it into a production where we point out we’re not shaking hands. Can’t we just..not, altogether?

  12. Dizzy Steinway*

    I got a new job last year for the first time in ages and nobody shook my hand at all. Which was kind of a relief as I just find the whole thing awkward even when it’s not bone crushing…

    1. Jillociraptor*

      I always worry about stabbing someone with my rings when they go for the fist bump!

      Can’t we just make the high five the professional greeting of choice?

      1. socrescentfresh*

        But so many people are so bad at high fives. If there’s anything worse than a limp handshake, it’s a soft high five.

          1. Saturnalia*

            Even though I know this to be true, I somehow manage to screw it up half the time anyway. High fives are suuuuuper awkward for me. I’d rather deal with my sweaty palm handshake embarrassment than my inability to land a high five embarrassment.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              The key is not only to look at your elbows, but to try to line them up, too.

              But in lieu of that, you could always do a “low five” :)

          2. Al Lo*

            (Are you also a fan of “The Royal We”? That book is what solidified that trick in my mind.)

          3. the gold digger*

            It’s very easy to slip someone some skin, though. I taught a four year old how to do it this weekend. No pain and less risk of missing because it’s slower than a high five.

        1. Gogglemarks*

          I think it depends on what you mean by soft! I know some people who high five like it’s some kind of joust and you must knock the other person’s hand backwards. Sure, it’s a little awkward if you go to high five someone and they just sort of pat your hand, but I much prefer that to the alternative.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          I have no depth perception and am dreadful at high-fives. My career would go down in flames as I repeatedly whiffed the air while attempting a confident and assertive high-five.

      2. Gadfly*

        Height differences. Trust me, it is far less awkward to shake my mother’s hand (she uses a wheel chair) than to try to contort to do a high five she can reach (and a low five just isn’t the same…)

      3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        My friend and I fistbump in congrats when we make sales at our small business, but because I’m married we had to modify it to bump just the first two knuckles (she’s almost always to my left side). However, I wouldn’t do it at work, only in that situation.

      4. Michele*

        I am kind of a klutz. No professional high-fives, please. Plus, some guys think it is funny to high-five really hard, so that wouldn’t solve anything.

        I did, however, teach my dog to high-five. When she does it, it is cute.

  13. ByLetters*

    My first thought was that handshaking came about as a way of proving that you aren’t holding weapons — apparently that’s not confirmed literally just because the practice is so old!

    So quoth the great wikipedia:

    “Archaeological ruins and ancient texts show that handshaking – also known as dexiosis – was practiced in ancient Greece as far back as the 5th century BC; a depiction of two soldiers shaking hands can be found on part of a 5th-century BC funerary stele on display in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin (stele SK1708)[4][unreliable source?] and other funerary steles like the one of the 4th century BC which depicts Thraseas and his wife Euandria handshaking (see images on the right).[5] The handshake is thought by some to have originated as a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon.[6][7][8]”

    TIL that handshakes aren’t just a modern irritation. Interesting!

  14. irritable vowel*

    The corollary to this is when, as a woman, you have a firm handshake and the man compliments you on it. Like it’s somehow akin to chugging a six-pack and crushing the cans on your forehead. Guys: if it’s not something you would say to a man who just shook your hand, don’t say it to a woman.

    1. Frozen Admin*

      I get this ALL THE TIME from older men. I’m young and feminine-looking and they assume I’m dainty. *eyeroll*

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I also only get the “why, that’s a great handshake!” from older men. They’re the same men who compliment me for “speaking eloquently” or “articulately” or “authoritatively” which is a whole age-race-gender smorgasbord of problems.

    2. Emi.*

      awkward coworker: “You’re a gymnast!”
      me: “Uh, what? No I’m not.”
      awkward coworker: “I said that because you have such a firm grip.”
      me: “…”

    3. Aurion*

      Yeah, as a woman with a strong handshake, I’ve gotten several comments about it from men. None of them have meant it as a backhanded compliment as far as I can tell; they were just surprised. It amuses me a little. (It surprises me too, because I don’t think I’m even gripping all that hard.)

      1. M-C*

        If you describe yourself as a strong handshake and men express surprise, you might consider backing off a bit, because you’re likely a crusher.. Express your strength in ways that matter!

  15. Rocket Roy*

    I hate shaking most people’s hands because even though I am a normal-sized adult I have tiny little child hands and always feel like my hands are engulfed by the other persons. The whole process just creeps me out and I avoid it whenever possible.

  16. Myrin*

    I’m always surprised when, whenver this topic comes up, almost everyone complains about the various bonecrushers they’ve had to shake hands with over the course of their life because I can, forgive the play on words, count on one hand the times I’ve actually encocuntered this. Now I fear that I am the crusher, although I don’t actually think I am. I have a naturally firm handshake, though, and I have literally felt people reacting to that by them themselves squeezing a bit more.

    I encounter the limpy fish all the time, though (and usually from other women), and it drives me bananas. It’s like a weird flaccid penis! And I don’t even know what holding a flaccid penis feels like! But I imagine it’s like that and it weirds me the heck out! I also often get people offering just the, like, first third of their fingers? I don’t even know what that’s supposed to be? Do you want to manipulate me to manoeuvre my touch so that I can kiss your hand or what?

    1. Spoonie*

      I always resist the urge to curtsy with a “m’lady” at those half-handshake things.

    2. LBK*

      Dying at your second paragraph – and yeah, I always get weirded out when people don’t fully extend their arm/offer their hand, so I end up with my hand creepily wrapped around their fingers. The shake is with the palms, people! I’m not meeting the queen!

    3. paul*

      yeah, I’m worried now.

      Like, after one incident (way back in my teens, this is pre-professional jobs), I’ve always tried to be cautious and now I’m worried I’m still doing it.

    4. Kathleen Adams*

      LOL – I’ve been thinking about those half-handshake things this entire thread. It’s really what, IMO, makes a limp handshake from a man so much yuckier than a limp handshake from a woman. When a woman gives you a limp handshake, it’s just that – a limp handshake. But with men, all too often they’ll shift their grip around so that it’s not really a handshake at all but more a kind of manual way of saying, “Dear lady, how delightful to meet you.” I mean, there you both are, in your business apparel and about to discuss the marketing plan or something, and you get this grip so different from a regular handshake that you practically expect the guy to sweep off his feathered hat and bow low over your hand.

      It just makes it absolutely clear that this is his special Shaking Hands with Ladies handshake. If I’m talking to an elderly gentleman at church, that’s OK. But when I’m meeting someone in my professional capacity, I do not want a special Shaking Hands with a Lady handshake. Jeez, dude, just shake my dang hand already.

    5. Hrovitnir*

      Yeah, I’ve probably had more limp fish than dominance displays, but I must say dominance displays amuse me because I’m quite capable of returning the favour and it makes them reeeeeally uncomfortable. (Which has made me realise this is one of the few circumstances where I can look someone in the eyes and smile while messing with them. Hmm.)

  17. PBcrispy*

    “…if you touch the inside of the other person’s wrist with your finger…”

    If someone did that to me during a handshake I would involuntarily shudder and probably go, “GAAAAAAH!”

    1. fposte*

      The Lifehacker article doesn’t make it sound any less creepy, but in the picture it looks like they might mean that you’re clasping a little higher with the index finger rather than extending it.

    2. kc89*

      I have a friend who (assuming he knows you well..) tickles your palm when he shakes your hand and it’s such an unnerving feeling lol

  18. Lora*

    Oh no. I am definitely guilty of crushing phalanges. In high school one of the headmasters taught us to shake hands with a death grip, because people don’t expect it of women, and it stuck. I try to do the normal handshake for most people but for someone I dislike, I squash their knuckles to a bloody pulp. On the plus side, men who shake my hand rarely harass me, so, there’s that.

  19. Elizabeth*

    My father taught me to shake hands by matching the space between my thumb and forefinger to the same space on the other person. If those spaces are aligned, neither party can crush the other’s hand. Usually, it just results in a pleasant handshake. Sometimes, an older, usually larger, man will look at me in shock when my hand is not crushed by his grasp (I’m a tall woman).

  20. Steve*

    Firm handshakes are like men who drive Hummers. They don’t represent strength and confidence; they represent someone who’s trying hard to convey strength and confidence – and in many cases, that’s because they’re severely lacking.

  21. Bee Eye LL*

    Since the handshake is often made at first contact while people are nervous and tense, it makes sense that sometimes they oversqueeze (or undersqueeze) depending on how they are feeling. It’s all part of the whole interview process where we are trying really hard to be the Tyler Durden version of ourselves. Just another thing to try and be mindful of while you worry about your appearance, your dress, saying the right thing, etc.

  22. Chassity*

    I’ve only encountered this twice in my life… there was a boy in my elementary school who would grab someone’s hand in a “shake” and squeeze it until the person cried (I’m almost 40 and I still remember it). And about 10 years ago, I met my ex-boss’s daughter, who crushed my bones together so firmly that it ached for days. I always disliked her after that and I can still feel the memory of that pain. Do other people have pain memories or is that just me? I’ve tried to avoid handshakes ever since then.

    1. Bee Eye LL*

      Oh wow that’s funny you brought that up. I also knew a kid in school who liked to have handshake contests and squeeze until somebody gave up. Hadn’t seen him in years til his mugshot showed up in the local paper where he got busted for felony child abuse. Guess he had some issues…

  23. AR*

    I will take the limp creepy clammy handshake over the bone crushing on any day. I had to actually file a Workers’ Comp claim over a handshake that was too firm. My hand collapsed from another employee’s grip and a Upper Management employee’s hand hurt for 3 days from the same person’s handshake. I don’t know what his deal was, but he only did it to both myself (petite female) and Upper Management (male, his manager’s boss).

  24. Emi.*

    I don’t think the weak handshake is a sign that someone is worried about crushing my ladyhands. I just think he (or she–so many women at my church do this!) has awkwardly limp handshakes in general.

  25. Borne*

    Isn’t it perhaps time to do away with the archaic ritual of handshaking?

    I doubt anyone would miss handshakes if we discontinued them tomorrow.

    1. Kathleen Adams*

      Oh, I would. There aren’t many ways to be both formal and friendly.

      Besides, I still know people who make – and honor – handshake deals, and what’s the point of a handshake deal without a handshake? I’m kind of kidding, but also kind of serious, because there are still people for whom a handshake has meaning.

      1. Emi.*

        I love handshakes! They’re friendly and formal, like Kathleen said, and they give you something to do besides nodding awkwardly while you say “Wakeen! Nice to meet you, Wakeen” to help you remember people’s names.

    2. Hrovitnir*

      Yeah, I’d be happier with them being *consistently* expected. Non-gendered, when you first meet somebody and in formal circumstances, no confusion. I’d be down with bowing as a non-touchy alternative but that’s obviously not going to happen – and would need to have specific expectations and not just be a bastardised imitation of a bunch of different cultures and traditions, because that is super creepy.

    3. Darcy*

      As someone with an aversion to germs, I’d much rather we eliminating hand shaking. I like the bow as it’s kind but doesn’t require any physical touching.

  26. LBK*

    What’s interesting is that to me, a “firm handshake” has nothing to do with squeezing, it’s about how stiff you hold your hand. It’s just the opposite of the limp handshake – rather than flopping your hand into theirs like a fish and letting them shake your arm around for a minute, you tense up the muscles in your hand/wrist/arm so that they stay rigid while you shake. Basically, your hand should look like you’re gearing up for a karate chop as you go in for the shake.

    I have a pretty firm handshake and I definitely don’t exert any inward pressure on the other person’s hand when I do it.

    1. fposte*

      To me tensing the muscles in your hand is squeezing–or are we talking about something different? Your hand should not be tightened into a position where it could be a solid doll-grip that could be slid onto the end of the other person’s arm–you should clasp and tighten the hand where it meets the other.

      1. LBK*

        Maybe tense is the wrong word…flexing? I actually do think the doll hand imagery is apt – when I shake, I hold my hand stiff in a position that another hand fits into it, and then I relax it a little as we shake just so it’s not like shaking hands with a robot. But that rigid position on initial contact is, I think, what avoids the dead fish feeling. At least for me, I can still keep your hand rigid without actually squeezing as if I were trying to make a fist.

        The closest thing I can come up with is how you hold a small animal, like a mouse or a hamster – your hand is a little tense so you can make them stay put, but you aren’t crushing them. Maybe this is just a motor skills thing/increase awareness of my hand and finger control from years of piano and video games?

        1. LBK*

          …can still keep MY hand rigid. One of these days I’ll manage to catch all the pronouns when I rewrite a comment from second- to first-person.

        2. TL -*

          This is exactly what I do and I also have a lot of dexterity training in my hands – piano and years of labwork.

          Fposte, I don’t squeeze, I just put my hand in the position to shake and firmly keep that position- there’s not really any pressure on the other person, but they would not be able to force my hand out of position without a great deal of effort.
          The only time I change it is if the person whose hands I’m shaking has unusually large hands, but usually large hands correlates with strong hands and I’m not as concerned with putting undue pressure on them. (maybe this is less effective if you have smaller hands? Mine are slender but I have long fingers and longish palms).

          1. fposte*

            Interesting. I can’t tell if I’m doing something different or if it all happens so fast that my move to close my hand is what I’m thinking of as squeezing. Grasp, pump, let go. Pressure-wise, I’d say a strawberry would survive but a raspberry would be doomed.

            1. LBK*

              Ah, I see what you’re saying – that in the midst of forming your hand into shaking shape, that’s effectively squeezing in. I guess I don’t think of myself as “grasping” their hand at any point, but now I’ve overanalyzed it so much that I can’t even figure out what I normally do.

              Also, I really like the fruit crushing scale for pressure :)

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree with you LBK. Once your hand is in handshake position, you can make it go “rigid” without actually squeezing. I still clasp a little, but not very much—the “strength” is conveyed more through the rigidity than through pressing inward.

    2. Jaydee*

      Exactly. It really is just about being an active participant in the handshake instead of a passive recipient of some awkward handholding.

    3. Nan*

      Yes, I’m female and have a firm handshake, but it doesn’t mean I squeeze the life out of the other person’s hand. It just means that I let there be muscle tension in my hand, instead of just letting it hang there.

      I don’t squeeze an egg when I pick it up, otherwise it’d go all over, but there’s enough tension there that I don’t drop it, either. Same concept.

      No squeezing needed.

      1. LBK*

        Yes! I should’ve read this before my comment above – I’d say it’s actually like the way you hold an egg as you’re cracking it, where you need to hold it tightly enough that you can apply some force as you hit it against the bowl, but not so tight that you crush it. It’s not the same position but it’s the same concept of “rigid but not squeezing”.

  27. saffytaffy*

    I’m a woman, and I’ve gotten crushing handshakes from men a few times, and the pattern I decided to identify is that they were all gregarious, laborador-puppy type dudes. My fantasy for the next time it happens is to say “augh! my dainty phalanges!”

  28. Hrovitnir*

    Heh. I was explicitly taught how to shake hands “firm, not hard”, but then my father’s Austrian and handshakes are a pretty consistent norm there.

    I think I can tell firm from power play easily even without really excessive squeezing, and there is also a difference between “I somehow didn’t learn this/am just naturally awkward” and “I go limp for women” (from me). Eugh. I also find limp handshakes creepy from women but it generally comes across as not knowing what they’re doing.

    Thinking about it, I think limp handshakes are inherently creepy due to just the feel of a hand in your hand with no feedback. OTOH it’s definitely some 100% cultural crap. That I realise I’ve bought into a bit – a gross handshake isn’t a dealbreaker, but a good one genuinely warms me to them somewhat. It’s a kind of respect to give someone your full attention and a firm handshake – but as a cultural norm where it’s not ubiquitous really it’s a kind of in-group signalling. :/

  29. kc89*

    I should ask some honest people about my handshake. I was always told growing up that I “didn’t know my own strength” so I tend to try and not squeeze people’s hands to death. Hope I’m not doing “your delicate bird-like bones cannot handle the immense power of my hand, and thus we will just briefly hold hands in a slightly creepy way.” haha

  30. Jess*

    In my experience, bone-crushing handshakes often seem to be unintentional (or at least I’ve just decided to think they are). I have a pretty firm handshake myself, but when someone crushes my hand it’s usually a man whose hand is far larger than mine. So I’ve always assumed it was a result of the disparity in size and strength, and they don’t realize how strong their grip is/how easy it is to crush a much smaller hand. (Although I still much prefer it to a limp handshake.)

        1. Beancounter Eric*

          Hard won experience….trust no one, assume they ARE out to get you, if you want something done right, do it yourself.

          1. VintageLydia*

            A character from the TV show Parks and Rec played by Nick Offerman. Fantastic character.

  31. David*

    My friends and I used to intentionally give one another limp handshakes because we knew how much it grossed each other out. And my experience has generally been that a limp handshaker shakes hands limply all around…it’s not necessarily only for women.

    Almost as bad as the limp handshake is someone who closes the deal too soon. In other words, they close their hand before you’re palms make contact and just end up with a handful of your fingers. THAT feels like a power play, as if the person is almost forcing you to have a limp handshake. A guy did this to me once and I never forgave him!

    1. Antilles*

      My friends and I used to intentionally give one another limp handshakes because we knew how much it grossed each other out.
      Me and my friends used to do the same thing. We’d also use the various other weird ways to shake too – the “pastor handshake” with both hands, not actually moving your hand while ‘shaking’, holding tightly enough that it lasts awkwardly long, and so on.

  32. Delta Delta*

    I once defeated a bone-crusher by saying, “ow! I am a delicate flower and you have crushed my petals!” It was a little over the top, but I delivered the line in a very melodramatic, silly way that didn’t hurt the bone-crusher’s feelings and got my point across. He said, sort of sheepishly, “I guess I should lighten up when I shake ladies’ hands.” Pretty sure nobody wants to be crushed, but at least it was a start!

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      Last time it happened to me was a colleague of some people I’ve worked with, and I said something like “wow, that was really painful”, as he’d done the ‘squashing the knuckles’ thing. I was super polite and smiley, but I feel like if someone hurts me, even if only briefly, I should let them know, just as I would if they trod on my foot.

  33. Michele*

    I have noticed that there are three levels of handshake. 1) The noncommittal, barely touching one that is used for meeting a friend of a friend and you might never see them again. 2) The firm, middle ground handshake that says you are genuinely interested in meeting someone. And 3) The “I must establish dominance/welcome to the boys club death grip.
    I don’t know why number 3 needs to exist. If you use that instead of number 2, even in a business setting, I assume you are a bit of a jerk.

  34. Christmas Carol*

    I always blamed men’s cautious, weak handshakes not on my dainty, lady hands, but on my large, lethal diamond rings. Living well is the best revenge.

    1. Heidi Liebl-Slabinski*

      Christmas Carol, you have supplied me with the solution to a new problem. Nerve damage (hopefully temporary) has left my right hand with almost no strength or control over my fingers. It is also partly numb or with only uncomfortable or painful sensation. I can only give fumbling, awkward, limp, and cold handshakes now. And I dread the bone crusher.
      I will try to avoid shaking hands, but on days I suspect could occasion them, I will now try to remember to wear large sharp rings on that hand to ward off any bone crushers.
      (And this took far too long to type, sad face.)

  35. Michele*

    All of you people saying that you don’t know how strong your grip is and can’t help it if you crush someone’s hand make me very worried for any children or small animals that you are around.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      Yeah, me too – I don’t understand how it’s something someone wouldn’t work on (or, as someone said upthread, how these people pick up eggs, hold delicate objects, etc etc)

  36. Nancy Raygun*

    Let’s include people who overdo the shaking part too. I’m short, so it’s especially annoying to me when someone taller damn near shakes my arm off.

  37. Amber Rose*

    My handshake is limp and noodly. It discourages people from holding strongly or for very long. I am very strongly against touching people’s hands or people touching my hands. If they insist, they get what they get.

    On a related note, did anyone see that video of Trump shaking the Japanese Prime Minister’s hand? The Japanese as a rule do not touch hands, but Trump had like an iron grip that he held way too long. The expression on the Prime Minister’s face truly made me feel second hand horror on his behalf.

  38. Jan Levinson*

    This made me chuckle, as I can totally relate!

    I like to think I have a “normal” handshake, but I nearly always feel like the handshakes I encounter are bone-crushing. It hurts!

  39. Allie*

    I just hate shaking hands. I always mess up at social events and hold my drink in my right hand meaning my hand wI’ll be cold. It just feels like one of those rituals where you get judged. I hate it.

    1. drashizu*

      I feel this. I have to make a mental note to always switch my drink to my left hand a few seconds after I get it, and discreetly wipe my right hand on my pants/shirt/whatever to try to dry it off. When I forget, ugh, I feel sorry for the people I have to shake hands with. I wish we all just nodded regally when introduced.

    2. Forever Anon*

      I hate shaking hands so much that I don’t do it much in my personal life. If I’m meeting someone for the first time and they don’t extend their hand I just warmly say “Hey Jane! It’s nice to meet you.” Most people seem to appreciate not having to make physical contact but on occasion I get the judgement stare.

  40. yarnowl*

    In my self defense class we just learned out to get out of a really tight handshake! Basically you move your pinkie so that it’s underneath your ring finger and it basically collapses your hand so that the other person can squeeze as tight as they want and you can just slip out.
    Maybe not totally pertinent to a business scenario, but interesting nonetheless! Haha

    1. Turtle Candle*

      I’m laughing imagining using this to nope right out of an unpleasant business handshake.

    2. Emi.*

      In more extreme cases, you can grind your opposite knuckles back and forth in the groove between the bones on the back of their hand.

  41. MegaMoose, Esq*

    So is anyone else apparently oblivious to handshake etiquette problems? People in my profession shake hands a lot but I honestly can’t recall any particularly uncomfortable handshakes one way or another. And it’s not like attorneys don’t have dominance issues! I’m going to have to ask around on this one.

    1. Frozen Ginger*

      My experience is “Oh, these people have firm handshakes, so I guess there’s at least some truth to it.” I haven’t had the bone-crusher since I started working in my office (did get a limp-wristed one though). Then again, I have a firm (but not crazy) handshake.

      Also, my tip to everyone on how to avoid *being* the bone-crusher but still firm! (IMO, YMMV):
      Concentrate less on the grasp of the hands, and more on the fit. The thought behind it should be that each person gently swings their hand in to meet the other; not “I’ll put my hand there and then she’ll put her hand here and we’ll arm wrestle without a table”. What I concentrate on is moving my hand *forward* towards the person (but not with a lot of force) while slotting our hands (thumb-pointer gap to thumb-pointer gap). Once you have a comfortable hand position(, THEN AND ONLY THEN), slightly take hold with your whole hand. Imagine lightly using one on of those hand flexers/strengtheners, and not a stress ball (think dense with just a little give).
      It also helps in the situations where your parter is a dead-fishers, because the thumb positioning lines up your hands in such a way that the other wrist naturally straightens.

    2. Lablizard*

      I had someone not let go of my hand after we stopped shaking. I tried to pull it away, but he held on, so I had to say, “I need my hand back now”

    3. Misc*

      Some of the discomfort does come down to personal hand structure/strength. My hands aren’t particularly strong (carpal tunnel D: I can barely type some days), but my knuckles don’t fold in (you know how you collapse your hand to slip it through a watch or bracelet? I can’t really do that, and I know that’s fairly out of the norm so I’m the exception that proves the point).

      So whenever someone tries to crush my hand, my knuckles just stay locked in a nice solid line and don’t budge, and they can’t do anything. It’s hilarious (for me). When I push my hand so the knuckles collapse, it HURTS, so I can really see how a crushing handshake could hurt other people.

      The times it has happened it has always been a friend/sibling messing around on purpose or someone doing the overly aggressive jerky thing, and I can tell that they’re *trying* to crush my hand, but nothing’s really happening, so I just smile innocently and keep shaking. I don’t crush back, unless we’re deliberately competing, but it’s funny watching them get confused (it doesn’t happen often, and they’re usually more… subconsciously confused, because they’re usually not trying to hurt, exactly, just be all RAAAARR FEEL MY STRENGTH, but then there’s no reaction to their strength and it completely throws them, and they can’t exactly ask about it so they just wander off in confusion, or try and keep going until they get the reaction that tells them that the handshake has been successful).

  42. Casuan*

    Nothing new to contribute, although I do have some questions…

    At what stage does one learn the secret AAM handshake?
    Does it depend on how long one has read Alison’s blog or the number of comments posted? Accrue points with purchase…?
    Or perhaps the number of times one types “Ask A Manager” [does “AAM” count?], “Alison” or a variation of the phrase “I agree with Alison”?

    Is there an AAM Tea Ceremony/Hazing Ritual & if so how often does it convene?

    [Long Day, Jacked Up on Coffee]
    ps: Is one disqualified from consideration by the admission of drinking coffee & not tea?

  43. Diatryma*

    When we teach our students interview skills, we have to come up with ways for them to understand handshakes*. Some, it’s, “Just squeeze as hard as you can. No, squeeze, not pump. You will not break my fingers.” Others, the ones with more than negligible hand strength, get my own rule: if the other person’s hand flops like a dead fish, you should be able to hang onto it; if the other person pulls their hand back fast, you shouldn’t be able to hang on.

    *I work with disabled adults developing life skills, including a lot of jobsearch work.

  44. Greg M.*

    I kind of wish the handshake thing wasn’t so common. Whenever a customer wants to shake my hand after helping them I do it but honestly like I have no idea where your hands have been or if you’re one of the gross people who don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom. But nope, I’m in retail that means I don’t get to have personal boundaries for fear of someone reporting me (exagerration)

  45. AlwhoisthatAl*

    Eddie Izzard (the comedian) answered this one best in his usual inimitable style, I quote:

    “And some people do those squeezy handshakes; that crusher handshake, you know, the Small-Dick-I’ve-Got-A-Big-Handshake kind of… The Compensation Handshake. A firm handshake is great, but that crusher one where they start to rotate your knuckles, you know? You’re going, Hi, how are you? Nice to meet you (mimes shaking hands casually, then encountering a crusher) And they go into this, and you don’t react, you just go (mimes taking in the pain, then recovering his hand) “Jeez”. We should react because they’re gonna get away with this, they just keep doing this stupid crusher handshake; they think it’ s very “Ooh-I-have-an-enormous-penis!” handshake, but we know it’s a small dick handshake. And you should react; if someone starts crushing the life out of your hand, just go, “AAAAAAAAH! Fucking hell! You bastard! Good Lord! Hope you die in a car crash!” Either that, or the complete opposite, and just collapse on the floor. “Oh, you killed him! You killed him dead, man! He suffers from hand-squeezy death. Yeah, you killed him I’m gonna tell on you!”

    The other type of handshake is that sort of limp weighing something you just received handshake, you know? (mimes weighing the handshake) “Oh I dont know, 2 kilograms, 2.5 kilograms, what do you think?” You should always have a fish up your sleeve for that one, someone gives you that kind of drop-in handshake, then you just slap in the fish

    “Hey, your handís come off! Oh, it ís a fish”

    “Yes, a present from my country! Done in one! “

  46. Victoria, Please*

    Can’t believe nobody has mentioned the “Oh, I have a slight cold, let me give you an elbow bump instead” maneuver. Works well if it’s true.

    My husband is from a culture where women don’t shake hands but they are aware that Americans do, so they will offer me their fingertips and I pretend she is handing me a flower so I’ll be gentle.

  47. Spills*

    The other thing about handshakes that really gets me going is when I get cut off from my handshake–always by men. I am going in for a nice, (reasonably) strong handshake, only to have my tiny lady fingers clutched by them, unable to proceed to a full hand shake. I always feel like I did something wrong, or they assume I wouldn’t want to do a full hand shake. (I don’t really want to touch any stranger’s hand, but…social norms). If we are going to shake hands, let’s do it right!

  48. Glitchy Resting Face*

    I have a story about this. I work in higher ed and have had the responsibility of interviewing students for a specific program. There was a student very interested in the program who introduced himself to me on campus at some event. I shook his hand and he squeezed my hand so hard that I winced. I said “Ow.” (I am a delicate lady and can get away with that kind of reaction). He apologized and we discussed his interest in the program. A few weeks later at another event I ran into him again and introduced him to a colleague, and he did the same thing! He shook both of our hands so hard that we both said “Ow!”, and I made a point to him about how his handshake was just too much. It really hurt!

    I guess that’s a weird thing to have to talk to a student about more than once, but whatever. He applied for the program and made it to the interview round with three panelists. He showed up for the interview and immediately shook each of our hands so hard that we ALL SAID “OW!”. I was in disbelief. This was not an accident. He was purposely trying to crush our hands.

    There were a few other red flags in his interview. He didn’t seem to pick up on social cues in general. He also completely ignored the requirements in the application that he prepare a five minute presentation for the panel as part of his interview, so we felt confident not moving him along in the process. I still cannot believe that he just ignored repeated feedback that I gave him to his face about his inappropriately strong handshake. His behavior seems typical for a college student besides that quirk so I don’t know if it has anything to do with a psychological or neurological issue. Regardless, it stands out as one of the strangest things I have dealt with in my job.

  49. mrs__peel*

    “I wish to personally give you a hearty handclasp!”

    (How many W.C. Fields fans are there…?)

  50. KL Harris*

    As a former protocol officer and client engagement SME, handshakes go beyond borders, too. Hopefully this will help…simply remember to SHAKE:

    S – Square off your shoulders, smile and make eye contact. While some suggest approaching from the side may be less threatening, this casual approach doesn’t show your full commitment to the other person. Try it and see if you feel the difference.

    H – Hands should be dry. A quick clutch of a cocktail napkin or slide on your slacks can help. Before leaving home, a quick spray of antiperspirant also can do the trick.

    A – Attitude. Think positive thoughts. Leave your emotions of the day behind and focus on a positive meeting. Slow down and focus. Nervous energy or enthusiasm leads to awkward, premature grabs.

    K- Konnect (OK, connect), web to web. That’s right, extend your hand and wait until the web between your finger and thumb connects with the web of the other person’s hand. Slowly wrap your fingers around the other hand then match the pressure. If it is firm, firm up; light, lighten up. Note, a proper, light handshake is far from a dead fish and actually preferred in many cultures.

    E – Engage with two to three up and down pumps and release…not over and again as if pumping for water.

    With a little practice / retraining (amongst friends), your handshake will be memorable for all the right reasons. And remember, when faced with a dead fish or bone crusher, be gracious, smile and know the negative impression is not yours.

  51. nnn*

    This comment is written using the generic “you” and is not intended to address any individual specifically. (The sentence structure got ridiculous otherwise.)

    I’m surprised that you’d think a limp handshake means Limp Handshaker thinks your hands are weak, because I’ve always taken it to mean that Limp Handshaker is the one with weak hands.

    If I were thinking about your hand strength (which I’m not), and concluded that your hands are weak, and decided to somehow address this in my handshake, I would do so by taking your hand and doing all the work of gripping and shaking myself. I wouldn’t grip too tightly or shake too hard, but I would do all the work, because your hands are weak.

    But in all the limp handshakes I’ve received, Limp Handshaker wasn’t doing any of the work. They were just putting their hand into the general handshake area and making me do all the work. That isn’t usually what people do when they think you’re weak.

  52. Former Employee*

    As I recall, in the past, a man would only shake hands with a woman if she held her hand out first and women didn’t usually shake hands with other women. Now, it’s everywhere.

    According to the CDC, a common method of transmission of colds and flu is through the hands. In addition, as at least one other person has pointed out, I have no idea as to where your hand was just prior to its touching mine.

    Bottom Line: I wish people would just stop shaking hands altogether.

  53. partgypsy*

    I am a woman and have a normal handshake, how difficult is it to shake someone’s hand? It doesn’t happen that often but if it does, it will be a middle aged guy who crushes your hand. The last time this happened I was wearing a right hand ring and the guy crushed both my fingers and ring together, and wouldn’t let go. I had indentations on either side of my finger for hours. I find it hard to believe the person doesn’t know what they are are doing it. Forget limp handshakes, sadists are who you can’t trust.

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