Ladies, don’t be a purveyor of ‘the deadfish handshake’

dead-fishI’ve been shaking a lot of hands lately. This is primarily because we are in tournament season at my tennis club and etiquette demands that, win, lose, or crash and burn, we end each match with handshakes all round. As I’m playing in two ladies doubles tournaments, that’s a lot of handshakes with a lot of ladies.

Being tennis players, you might expect the handshakes to be on the firm side, so I’m rather disconcerted at how many ‘deadfish handshakes’ – i.e. limp – I’m experiencing. It’s almost unnerving and it does make me (slightly) reassess the characters of the women involved:

– they are healthy, energetic and appear confident.

– two of the three women have just won (most probably, as I’m playing slightly above my
league!) a match so they should be, at least inwardly, cock-a-hoop.

– So what’s with the ‘deadfish’?

Having just experienced another limp handshake, this time in a business environment, I was sufficiently intrigued to look into it further.

An article on this very subject in from March 2015 made the point rather well:

According to 2014 research by jobsite Monster, hiring managers rank their first impressions of a candidate as the second most important factor when considering whether to employ a candidate, and it takes just over six minutes for a candidate to make an impression.

When asked to give examples of the types of behaviours that create the worst first impressions, in top position was a “limp handshake” (alongside smelling badly, ignorance about the company or the role, arriving late and being high on drugs – just to give you an indication of how unimpressive the wrong handshake is).”

In an item on body language, proposed that a limp handshake “….can indicate to someone that you’re not interested in building rapport with them and want to escape the greeting ritual as soon as possible.” Other interpretations are shyness, a lack of confidence or, possibly, a sign of introversion, guilt and general anxiety.

None of these is a characteristic you want to display if you are hoping to impress. It’s a shame that our club etiquette is only to shake hands at the end of the match rather than at the beginning as my confidence would be definitely bolstered if an opponent offered me a ‘deadfish handshake’ at the start.

Having said that….

…. two of my tennis club circle are Japanese ladies. Both, in their own way, are demons on court, and both have what I would call ‘limp’ but, which I now know from my research, are ‘delicate’ handshakes. An article on body language in highlighted that, what is seen as a personable and confident greeting in one culture, may create a less favorable impression in another:

“Delicate handshakes, accompanied with minimal and brief contact, are acceptable in Asian countries; however, a slight bow is a more common greeting. In some African countries, the limp handshake is the thing to do.”

This would explain why, in the case of my Japanese opponents, a delicate handshake is no predictor of feeble performance on court!



About madeleinekavanagh

Internal comms specialist with a career spanning advertising, car sales and management consulting. My greatest legacy (so far) - my son!
This entry was posted in Authentic communication, Culture, first impressions, Success factors. Bookmark the permalink.

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