Do your staff need handshake lessons?

Donald Trump’s tug technique has put the spotlight on handshakes. Here’s how to ensure yours is a good one

Do your staff need handshake lessons?

by Laura McQuillan

The US President’s odd handshake technique should be a wake-up call to all professionals about the importance of a great handshake, an etiquette expert says

Greeting Donald Trump has become a power struggle in itself, because of his tendency to suddenly tug others towards himself in an effort to demonstrate control – prompting leaders like Justin Trudeau to place their left hand on Trump’s shoulder to stop being pulled.

Trump wasn’t always that way: for decades, Trump – a self-confessed germaphobe – was notably anti-handshake.

His change of heart should be a lesson to professionals and companies about why a proper handshake matters, says Julie Blais Comeau, chief etiquette officer at

“People will judge us, whether we like it or not, on first impressions.”

Yet few businesses provide etiquette training – instead leaving their staff to wing it. Blais Comeau suggests they should call in an expert for help.

“You only have one chance to make a good first impression, and the handshake is one of the elements that contributes to a positive impression that can send out confidence and credibility.”

Here, she shares her “seven Ss” of a great handshake:

  1. Stand up: “You should always stand up, unless there is a mobility impairment or something like that, or there’s an obstacle in the way.”
  2. Smile: “It’s the universal symbol of friendliness, of welcoming, in any language.”
  3. Show the palm of your hand: “Show that you’re open, at their service, as opposed to coming down with the palm under.”
  4. Straighten your thumb: “Whenever you come in for that handshake, when your thumb is sideways, to the left, or even at a 45-degree angle, you’re going to miss it.”
  5. Steady eye contact: “Look into the person’s eyes. Make contact with them. [However] in certain cultures, sustained eye contact should be avoided or could be uncomfortable for some people.”
  6. Shake a couple of times: “That’s usually up and down.”
  7. Slip free.

And, Blais Comeau adds, if you’re at a cocktail or networking event, be sure to hold your drink in your left hand, because no one wants a cold, clammy handshake.