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Handshake Protocol:
When you encounter a business associate, it is customary to offer your hand in greeting. A handshake will tell you much about the person you are meeting, and they will also use the opportunity to form opinions about you. If you hesitate to offer your hand readily, the person you are meeting may assume that you are inexperienced in business protocol. Shaking the hand of someone who holds their arm stiffly is a good example of "keeping someone at arm's length." Beware, they may not be willing to develop an amicable relationship with you.

Shaking hands in a business setting is not limited to gender. In the past, shaking hands with women in a social setting was not always practiced. Confusion still exists in this area. If you are a woman, extend your hand readily in greeting to avoid any hesitation and awkwardness on the part of the person you are meeting.

When doing business globally, it is essential to research the culture of the people you are meeting and to be ready to greet them according to their customs. Physical contact with the opposite sex in some countries is not considered socially acceptable.

Extend you right hand, even if you are left-handed. If you or the person you are greeting has a physical disability that prevents the use of the right hand, then the left hand can be used. If a left hand is extended to you for these reasons, do not be embarrassed or draw attention to the irregularity; shake hands with the usual enthusiasm.

Grasp the whole hand firmly, not just the fingers, and shake it approximately two or three times and then release it. It is never pleasant to be on the receiving end of a limp handshake. You may begin to wonder if the person with such a handshake has any authority or decision-making powers.

If you are shaking the hand of someone who has a smaller bone structure than yours, be careful not to squeeze their hand so tightly it causes them pain. If they are wearing rings on their right hand, the damage that can be caused can be quite extensive. You do not want to make such a lasting negative impression.

Handshakes should not be an opportunity for arm wrestling. There are other more effective ways to show that you have the upper hand.

Do not be too affectionate when shaking hands. Grasping the other person's hand in both of your hands, putting your left hand on the person's shoulder while you are shaking hands, or putting your arm around a person's shoulders are too familiar in a business setting. A greeting in a social setting where you know the person well, and you have their permission to greet them in such a manner, is another issue.

If moist palms are constantly an embarrassment to you, try placing a linen handkerchief sprayed with an antiperspirant into your right pocket. Keep an eye out for an imminent handshake and wipe your hand on the linen cloth before extending it.

If you are at a gathering where cold drinks are being served, always hold your glass in your left hand. Not only does this keep the right hand closer to body temperature, it avoids the necessity to remove the condensation from your fingers before shaking hands.

Catherine Bell is President of Prime Impressions, a Kingston-based image consulting company, seminar leader, and author of Managing Your Image Potential. Enquiries and comments can be directed to Catherine Bell at: tel: (613)634-1820, fax: (613) 634-1830, EMAIL