The Handshake In American Business
The Handshake In American Business
Phyllis Davis (Business Etiquette Consultant) gives expert video advice on: How do men and women shake hands differently?; Is it proper for women to initiate a handshake?; When is it inappropriate to initiate a handshake? and more...
How do men and women shake hands differently?
It's very interesting, because after all, we are primates but men and women do shake hands differently. We do respond to each other differently. And when a man shakes hands with a woman, if he wants to really put her at ease, he'll square his shoulders to her. When men shake hands, they angle their shoulders, because that's what's comfortable to them. And you can try it right now. Two men, if you're out there and you're watching, think how you shake hands. But when women shake hands, we align our shoulders straight on to one another. So if a man wants to make me comfortable, hell square his shoulders to me when he shakes my hand. If I want to make a man comfortable, Ill angle my body to his, to make him comfortable.
How do rank and heirarchy affect who initiates a handshake?
Rank and hierarchy do influence who initiates a handshake. For example, you could work in a big company, and run into the CEO of your company in the elevator. Now one might think that you would initiate the handshake, but that's incorrect. The senior executive in a company initiates the handshake of someone in lower management. So initiating a handshake is based on hierarchy, indeed as you'll see a lot of manners are based on hierarchy.
If I am a visitor in an office, who initiates the handshake?
If you are a visitor in an office, you wait for them to initiate the handshake. Let's say that you walk into someone's office, and you're selling something. Now, your main thought would be to walk in and put your hand out to shake someone's hand. In fact that's not true! You wait for them to initiate the hand shake. So there's again a matter of who initiates a handshake in American business.
Is it proper for women to initiate a handshake?
Women, in today's business, it is appropriate to initiate a handshake, but not for all women. There are certain parts of the country, and women of a certain age who do not initiate a handshake. I'm originally from Texas and I have seven aunts and they were raised in a small community in Texas. They shake hands with people they know, but they don't shake hands with strangers and they're in their late 80s and 90s now. We come from a family of long lineage and they're not in business today. But most women in business today around the United States shake hands in business, and even initiate it.
If I am meeting with a client, who should initiate the handshake?
If a client comes to your campus, always do your best to initiate the handshake and make them completely welcome. It is your duty to initiate the handshake if you are meeting with a client.
When is it inappropriate to initiate a handshake?
It can be inappropriate to initiate a handshake sometimes. I've had some very interesting experiences with that. I've travelled all over the world, and I lived in Los Angeles for a long time. Once I tried to initiate a handshake with a gentleman at an affair in Beverly Hills and he wouldn't shake my hand because he was a religious Jew and I really didn't see his yarmulke. I didn't understand that I should not have initiated that handshake and he put his hand behind his back and I was very surprised. So it can happen. I've been very sensitive to that since then and it was a long time ago and I've learned a lot about who to offer to initiate a handshake with concerning people from different ethnicities and religions around the world.
What if I initiate a handshake and it's refused?
If you initiate a handshake and it's refused, you don't ask for an apology. You don't say, "Oh, I'm so sorry." You don't do that in business, you don't say you're sorry in business. You make it interactive and you say, "Forgive me, I didn't realize that wasn't part of your culture." Just say forgive me, and a lot is forgiven, because that person has to in fact forgive you if you ask for it. I mean, its unconscious, but it works very easily, so don't say "I'm sorry" in business.
Should I shake hands with people I see in my office every day?
You don't need to shake hands with people in your office you see everyday, unless there is a reason to. For example if you are offering congratulations or if there's someone you haven't seen in two or three days and you're really glad to see them. Then again a handshake is appropriate.
Should I stand or sit when shaking hands with someone?
Always, always, stand when shaking hands with someone. Always stand! There is no exception, except for two reasons. One is if you are unable to stand, if you have a physical disability. And the other one is if you are in the back of a round booth, where is it physically impossible to stand. Even then, you do sort of a courtesy bow. You put your hand on your chest, you raise yourself halfway from the booth, and you reach across to initiate a handshake.
Are the 'business kiss' or 'business hug' appropriate greetings?
Its so common in business and yet the business hug or kiss is not appropriate. Any physical contact besides a handshake is not appropriate in the business setting, unless you pat someone on the back. There are very few gestures you can make that are not considered intimate in business. So a handshake is about the only time you ever really touch anyone. We live in Southern California and everyone has a hug or a cheek kiss, as it's very much like the Parisian culture where kisses are meant for close friends on both sides - the European kiss on both sides of the cheek. In America, some areas and some parts of the country do initiate a quick hug as again it's very similar to the Parisian double cheek kiss. But it's reserved for someone you know, don't hug someone you don't know.
How should I handle it if a business acquaintance tries to kiss or hug me in greeting?
If a business acquaintance tries to hug or kiss you in greeting within a business setting, it can be touchy. In every situation it is on a case by case basis. I create very clear boundaries with people. I'm not offended if someone hugs me, but I don't really welcome that. It's just the way I stand and keep my distance. I want to be treated as a professional woman. I have been self employed for 33 years and that's a long time in business and I've come up from the ranks as a woman in business. And I've had hold my self, just a little apart so that I could have the respect men have in business after all these years.