One of the first things I noticed after taking over the commercial real estate beat was the bone-crushing handshake that most in the profession employ.
After many years as a business reporter, I can tell you that this not the case in other fields. I’ve certainly endured my share of limp, sweaty and distracted handshakes over the years.
But in commercial real estate? Not so. And I’m talking about the women, too.
I find this charming, and wondered if it was related to the inherent deal-making culture associated with the profession.
But when I’ve mentioned this to a few CRE professionals, my observation has been met with a polite, but puzzled, reaction. (No self-respecting Minnesotan would declare, “What in the world are you talking about?”)
So I decided to contact business etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, author of Poised for Success (St. Martin’s Press), for more perspective. Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, has consulted for the U.S. Department of Defense, the American Heart Association as well as various businesses, including Bloomingdale’s, Ernst & Young and Royal Caribbean. Plus, she used to hold etiquette classes at the famed Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach.
The handshake, of course, is a sign of goodwill and mutual respect. But in the business world, Whitmore says a handshake-gone-awry can send the wrong message.
She cites the “Four Hazardous Handshakes:” The “Bone Crusher,” a.k.a. “The Terminator;” the “Finger Holder” or the “Queen’s Handshake;” the limp dead fish (self-explanatory) and the “Rubber Glover,” where both hands are gripped — popular with politicians.
“The handshake reveals a lot about the person, their traits, feelings, motivations,” she says. “It may also reflect how they feel about themselves.” For example, someone with a limp handshake might not be as assertive or confident as, say, the Bone Crusher.
Whitmore has a few tips to perfect one’s handshake. First, stand up when you shake someone’s hand. Look them in the eye. Smile. And, when hand contact is made, extend all fingers, and keep the thumb up until contact is made. A few quick pumps and you’re done, although she says if you want to show a little extra sincerity, you can linger before letting go.
But only for a few seconds.
Janet Moore covers commercial real estate for the Star Tribune.