When it comes to raising bright, curious and well-rounded children, we know that math, science, history and literacy skills are essential. There is, however, another skill all children must learn before they’ll likely get the chance to show off their times tables prowess, periodic table knowledge, historical wisdom and words per minute reading ability: a good firm handshake.
Fortunately, I’m not the only one who understands the significance of a well-executed handshake. Renowned speaker and communication expert Jonathan Sprinkles takes time to teach teenagers perfect handshake technique because he too knows that without the ability to look another person square in the eyes and produce and good, firm (but not too firm!) handshake, all the schooling, skill-building, knowledge, passion and ability locked inside even the most promising child may go undiscovered.
Everyone needs to get a foot in the door at some point in their lives, but it’s a good handshake that will often crack open those doors in the first place.
Today, we’re going to teach your kids how to execute the perfect handshake, with a bonus lesson of making and keeping steady eye contact through the shake and during the conversation that follows.
What You’ll Need
- A handshakepartner
- A few moments of time
How to Execute the Perfect Handshake
Here are ten simple steps to practice with your kids to ensure they will be able to deliver a strong, confident handshake today…and be able to seal their first big deal in the future!
- Make eye contact with the person who’s hand you will soon be shaking, recognizing that a perfect handshake begins before hands ever meet.
- Once you are roughly a fully-extended arm’s length away from the other person, begin to extend your right hand in a steady, deliberate manner. Remember to maintain some flexibility in your elbow throughout this motion (meaning, don’t reach all the way out as if trying to grab someone’s hand before they fall off a cliff!)
- Smile a confident, reassuring smile.
- Focus on the webbing of your hand, that space between thumb and index finger. This is the portion that will ‘lock’ into place with the other shaker’s hand.
- Squeeze the hand of the other person as if you’re gripping the handle of a gallon of milk—firm enough to not drop it but not so firm that you crush the plastic.
- Maintain eye contact throughout.
- Keep smiling that natural smile!
- Gently shake hands up and down no more than 3 times, moving no more than an inch higher or lower than the original meeting place of the hands (meaning, no exaggerated cartoon handshaking!)
- Release your grip and retreat your hand and arm back to your side.
- Begin conversation.
That’s how to execute a perfect handshake. Now, for reference, here’s what the worst handshake ever looks like-no eye contact, no locked-in webbing of hands and not nearly firm enough.
Handshakes aren’t only about sealing an important business deal though. They are also used when meeting and greeting new people, as well as when running into someone you haven’t seen in a while.
A firm handshake is also a vital part in compromising, like when two sisters shake to ratify a deal regarding which PBS Kids show to watch next on-demand!
Remember to Make Eye Contact!
Okay, this is probably a bit closer than two strangers would (and should) ever be, but my oldest girl and I are demonstrating seriously strong eye contact to show you and your kids how to meet someone’s eyes, shake hands (see directions above), hold the eye contact and engage in a great conversation.
With perfect handshake technique in their repertoire and the ability to maintain eye contact (along with all the math, science, history and literacy skills they have already picked up from Adventures in Learning activities here on PBS Parents!) your kids will surely impress everyone they meet.