People never question a strong, firm handshake. In an interview setting, a strong handshake is regarded as a positive characteristic, albeit a limp one will, more often than not, be frowned upon. What is the reasoning behind this mind-set? Do firm handshakes announce aspects of our personality others find favourable?
Individuals communicate in more ways than simply speech. We actually say a lot through our body language – gestures, facial expressions, eye contact and tone of voice for example. In fact research has found that only 7% of communication is verbal (Rane, 2010). So, what information does a handshake reveal? Chaplin, Philips, Brown, Clanton and Stein (2000) suggested that people who give firm handshakes are more extroverted, whilst a delicate handshake screams indecisiveness and neuroticism. A lot is said about your character in those 3-4 seconds of shaking someone’s hand!
Stewart, Dustin, barrack and Darnold (2008) conducted a study evaluating the performance of handshakes in interviews. Participants consisted of 98 undergraduate students, who underwent mock interviews, where their handshakes were evaluated. Like Chaplin et al, they hypothesised that strong handshakes would suggest high extroversion and that those more extrovert will be more successful in the interview stage. The students were informed that the mock interviews could lead to actual jobs, which ensured candidates put forward their best effort.
The interviewees were not aware that handshakes were being evaluated – some necessary deception was involved, as not to affect results. Those rating handshakes were not the same as those conducting the interviews, thus eliminated any chance of bias. If participants were rated with firmer handshakes and also, independently, rated as more expressive and outgoing, results would suggest higher correlation between handshake and personality.
Stewart et al’s hypotheses were supported. Participants with firm handshakes were rated as extroverts, which suggests good handshakes infer positive information about one’s character. One negative aspect with this study is that it was set out in an interview setting, thus it is difficult to determine how generalizable the results would be to alternate settings.
In situations where you meet new people, what information would you pick up form their handshake? Do you think this would have an influence on your future relationship with them?
Also, wouldn’t you agree that the duration of a handshake is far too short to correctly judge someone’s personality, especially if meeting them for the first time? Is it fair to be so critical?
Chaplin, W. F., Phillips, J. B., Brown, J. D., Clanton, N. R., & Stein, J. L. (2000). Handshaking, gender, personality, and first impressions. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 79(1), 110-117.
Rane, D. B., (2010) Effective Body Language for Organizational Success. 17-25
Stewart, G. L., Dustin, S. L., Barrick, M. R., & Darnold, T. C. (2008). Exploring the handshake in employment interviews. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 93(5), 1139-1146.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol 79(1) Jul, 2000. Pp. 110-117