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  • 22 min read
  • Feb 12, 2015

A Profitable Handshake

In July 2010, Geoffrey Beattie, professor of psychology at the University of Manchester developed a mathematical formula detailing the core components and fundamentals of an optimal handshake. According to Professor Beattie, the optimal handshake “…is one of the most crucial elements of impression formation and is used as a source of information for making a judgment about another person…The rules for men and women are the same: right hand, a complete grip and a firm squeeze (but not too strong) in a mid-point position between yourself and the other person, a cool and dry palm, approximately three shakes, with a medium level of vigor, held for no longer than two to three seconds, with eye contact kept throughout and a good natural smile with a slow offset with, of course, an appropriate accompanying verbal statement. All of these factors culminate in the “perfect" handshake.

For those analytical handshake aficionados, here is the formula developed by Professor Beattie:

PH = √ (e2 + ve2)(d2) + (cg + dr)2 + π{(4<s>2)(4<p>2)}2 + (vi + t + te)2 + {(4<c>2 )(4<du>2)}2

Click here to see the full breakdown of all the variables in the equation.

Professor Beattie’s handshake study was funded and sponsored by Chevrolet, as part of their 5-year Promise Plan, which was geared towards building overall customer trust and loyalty. According to Chevrolet executive, Les Turan, “It is easy to overlook everyday rituals, but as the handshake is used to complete agreements it is important our staff are well trained so they can pass on trust and reassurance to our customers”.

As a person that appreciates a good handshake, I’ve always been interested in this human ritual and how it plays into the complex calculus of “first impressions”. Clearly, the science shows that optimal handshakes evoke emotional reactions and play a significant role in conveying preconceptions and judgments of trust and likeability. While the scientific handshake equation is fascinating, it’s far better to see a true handshake practitioner at work. There are few better at the art of a great handshake than one, Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and T.V. personality on CNBC’s “The Profit”.

Sit-back and enjoy this short clip of some of his finest handshakes. CLICK HERE

After watching several seasons of “The Profit”, I’ve come to appreciate Marcus’s ability to make quick and personal connections with people. With a simple, but effective handshake, Marcus is able to convey trust, confidence, and authenticity. In many discussions with my friends, family, and colleagues, we seem to all agree that Marcus Lamonis has the ‘perfect’ handshake. If you deconstruct Marcus’ handshake into stages, you can see how Marcus makes great eye contact, confident forward body lean, warm smile, and his hand is open and up. These non-verbal body language qualities, delivered in a matter of 2-3 seconds, knock down barriers and create an immediate sense of trust and safety. After delivering his very effective handshake, Marcus intuitively gets the sense that his introduction is positively received, and then he proceeds to delve into important, substantive business matters.

As science and our personal experience teaches us, first impressions are critical in both business and in life. That first handshake encounter is one that you don’t want to take for granted. A quick investment into handshake etiquette might be all it takes to start building a lifelong connection.

Below is a quick summary of Professor Beattie’s handshake best practices.

  • Use right hand, a complete grip and a firm squeeze (but not too strong)
  • Ensure fingers are under the receiving palm
  • Position hand in a mid-point position between yourself and the other person
  • A cool and dry palm, approximately three shakes, with a medium level of vigor
  • Hold for no longer than two to three seconds
  • Keep eye contact throughout
  • Accompany with a good natural smile and an appropriate accompanying verbal statement

Now, go forth and shake some hands!



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