Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at news-sentinel.com.
Q. Karen, when I was young I was taught that a gentleman always waits for the lady to extend her hand before offing his for a handshake. Is this still the rule today? I am often hesitant in offering my hand first at the risk of offending a lady.
A. Today, in the American business culture, it doesn't matter who extends their hand first, the man or the woman. In fact, some people feel the person initiating the handshake has an advantage.
Etiquette does change over time with new things that come into our lives and with changes in our culture and habits. Waiting for a woman to initiate a handshake is one of the many rules that have changed. That is largely because more women are in the work force today than 50 years ago. That increase has made the workplace gender-neutral, meaning there is the same expectation for men and women. For instance, if men shake hands, women shake hands, and if men stand, women stand.
Your handshake is your physical calling card and says a great deal about you, your self-confidence and professionalism.
Some tips for offering the perfect handshake are:
•Stand for introductions and shaking hands. It's a sign of respect for everyone involved.
•Extend your right hand, engage web to web (the web between your index finger and thumb) or palm to palm. Then wrap your fingers around the strongest part of each other's hands.
•Offer a firm and sincere grip. Two pumps are usually enough.
•Shake from the elbow, not the shoulder.
•Smile and make eye contact while shaking hands.
•Be prepared to adjust your usual firm grip for older people or someone with an injured hand. When in doubt, let them lead.
•A handshake that is too firm or too weak can give a negative impression.
•The technique for shaking hands is the same for men, women and children.
If you are unsure of your style and grip, practice with someone you trust. It may take practice and time to develop your perfect handshake and be comfortable with it, but it will be worth it.