The handshake is a very common greeting gesture performed all around the world and up until recently the style with which they were delivered was anecdotally believe to predict personality traits the people who did them. Does the “bone crusher” or “wet fish” handshaker really convey that a person is aggressive or timid? Research conducted in 2000 by Dr. William Chaplin from the University of Alabama set out to get some facts straight about what the handshake really means. He found one hundred twelve students to be a part of his study but kept the purpose of it a secrete. They were simply told there were four parts to the experiment, and they’d be dismissed and welcomed to each part with a handshake in addition to other formalities. Four of the researchers, two men and two women were trained for a month on how to perform certain handshakes.

The researchers had students stand next to smaller rooms and as they entered they greeted them by shaking their hand and then proceeded into the room to fill out a questionnaire. The researchers found that a firm handshake was related to extroversion and emotional expressiveness rather than shyness and neuroticism. Women were also rated as more open to experiences when they used a firm handshake. The results show that our handshakes reveal a lot about our personalities. Women with strong handshakes can equalize themselves alongside men in the workplace and bring more favourable initial ratings from others. While an assertive attitude can be considered “pushy” especially in women, a firm handshake is an acceptable technique to show confidence without appearing too aggressive. According to Dr. Chaplin a firm handshake is a safe place for women to show their dominance in the workplace. They also happen automatically, we don’t consciously think about them and therefore we don’t often realize how good or bad our handshake really is. However, this also means we can tell a lot about people from how they shake hands because, chances are, it’s what occurs naturally to them. While men overall have firmer handshakes, the study shows us that women can level the ground simply by stepping up their firmness.