Our culture has long used handshakes as a part of a greeting, confirming agreement and in many cases an implied contract. Within the exchange, there is an understanding of mutual needs and benefit to be realized. This gesture even when virtual is one cog turning another in the business machine.
I remember my Dad assessing the virtues of the person on the other end of the handshake. His assessment raised or lowered his perception of the other person’s part of the deal or relationship immediately. Dad’s evaluation system has been a good guide and the virtual elements of the handshakes, including email signatures, have been added. It works whether you are buying, selling, recruiting or creating a business relationship.
The Bone Crusher – Usually a person in a power play who may be more hot air than substance but sometimes a person who is really hiding shyness or uncertainty behind the handshake. Complete your conversation, shake hands again and re-evaluate. If the person still wants to crush your hand, most likely that will be their business style. The virtual bone crusher touts unbelievable importance with little real value often in the signature. Lots of power play language in the message.
The Delicate Hand – This person is usually not the person to offer the handshake. Dad said that unless the person is a member of royalty then you will most likely be the leader and the strength in the deal. If they are royalty, find out who you will really be working with. Email signature is often a cutesy or very personalized format of their name as if you have known them all of their life. Language is tentative and commitments vague.
The Gloved Hand – Even in the coldest of weather, Dad removed the glove from the hand he offered to another. If the other person offered only a gloved hand, he did not feel that the handshake was sincere or on even terms. He wondered if that meant that the person would also hide behind the glove or not be open in the deal. Signature seems insincere and language is couched with contingencies.
The Upper Hand – When someone turned the handshake so that their hand was on top, he looked for control issues. He also often questioned the sincerity of the person. Their signature is often in bold face and language may imply win – lose scenarios.
The Two Handed Shake - Unless it was at a time of consolation or concern, Dad always felt that this was not a good business handshake and rarely invested immediate trust in the person. The email signature appears business like but often has a tag line indicating the person’s virtues in a way that when you read it, you want to say “really???” Language is often conditional and full of promises.
The Sweaty Hand – Unless all parties were sweaty due to weather or activity or the person has a medical condition, Dad suspected that the person was nervous. He would then seek to understand whether the nerves and sweat were related to the validity of the deal or whether the person was simply timid. Email may not even have a signature or it may be inconsistent. Language does not flow smoothly but seems as if the stopped and started a lot while writing.
The Vigorous Handshake – This person likes to pump your hand vigorously as if they have had way too much caffeine. They are too ready for agreement and you get the impression that they may be a mile wide and an inch deep. Get prepared to carry the deal. Email signature often professes their prowess in quick communications. Language skims the issues and makes shallow promises.
Dad taught all of us the importance of the handshake and of readily offering a sincere, firm handshake. He was not a hugger in business and was wary of those who went for a hug when a handshake was offered. His feeling was that they put more value in the relationship than the business.
While not a perfect system, he based it on perception and was frequently correct. Dad also loved and respected good business machines and knew that they were fueled with the energy of good communications. The handshake was an important part of communications carrying the implied business and social contracts agreed with that simple gesture.