Handshaking and Gender?

I started work last Wednesday (the 13th). I’m not going to tell you much about my job – let’s just say it’s a lot of data entry at a major corporation. I do, however, want to talk about something that happened on my first day.

I was given a tour of the (massive and confusing) building. After that I was introduced to everyone doing essentially the same job as I am, and there are a lot of them. I remember very few names. There’s one guy that I recognize and think is pretty nice, but I honestly cannot remember his name. One name I remembered quickly happens to belong to a woman about to go on leave. Great.

We walked up to each person’s desk and introductions were made.

Every man I met shook my hand. Some from where they were sitting, others stood up, but they all shook my hand. Every single one of them. There wasn’t a weak handshake among them, and in most cases the man initiated the handshake before I had a chance to do so myself.

Maybe 1 in 6 women that I met shook my hand. Most sat in their chair, smiled weakly and stared awkwardly without shaking my hand. The women that did shake my hand mostly did so at my prompting, and their handshakes were less than impressive.

What is up with that?

Your handshake is something you have control over. It is a big part of your first impression. It’s also a normal part of business culture when you meet someone for the first time. It’s pathetic that so many women failed miserably to even offer their hands to shake and when they did, their handshakes made a bad impression.

I actually prefer shaking hands with men. It’s not because I’m heterosexual or anything, it’s because a much higher percentage of men have confident handshakes. “Strong and capable” comes to mind a lot more often than when I shake hands with women. You know those scenes in movies when the weak, weird male leader comes out and his hand shake is limp and a little creepy? That’s how I felt about most of the women I shook hands with. That’s sad. I don’t want to prefer shaking hands with one gender over the other, and I don’t want to get an impression of weakness from women when they should feel anything but!

Your handshake is important whether you want to admit it or not. Staring at one another awkwardly when you meet for the first time is for middle school kids, not grown adults with full time jobs. Please learn how to shake someone’s hand properly. Man or woman, it’s important to convey strength and confidence every time you shake hands. Plus, strong and confident handshakes are a lot more pleasant than weird, limp and weak handshakes.

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One thought on “Handshaking and Gender?

  1. NuclearGrrl says:

    I completely agree with you on how important handshakes are. I always shake hands with people I meet. I certainly could work on my entry though. Arriving to a meeting where others are already settled in, one should make a round to introduce oneself in person and shake each person’s hand. I don’t always do that. But it’s a step up from what I am doing. So even good hand-shakers can improve.
    Oh, and you should go to China. The handshake is long and limp. It is considered more respectful to the other person to let them let go first – especially if the person is of higher stature than you are, such as a manager. If both are on the same level, the handshake can last a long time, relatively. It’s kind of weird, but neat at the same time.

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