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The Handshake

832 words

Editor’s Note:

Charles Krafft sent this piece to me in the Spring of 2014 for Counter-Currents, but I was in the process of a trans-continental move, so it slipped through the cracks. My thanks to PB for sending me his copy.  

Young artists, covered in tattoos sporting half a haircut, come up to me all the time when I’m out and say, “Charlie, you are such a fat, bald, and unpleasant old fuck, but you are so successful. How the heck do you do it!?” And I always tell them. “It’s in the handshake, kiddo.” Let me share my secret with YOU.

Both men and women should have a good, firm handshake. Always begin and end your meeting with a new client (and all follow-up meetings) with a firm and friendly handshake. This is usually the first gesture between two people, and if it is not a strong beginning, your meeting will be off right from the start. When you meet art gallery representatives, also begin and end your meetings with a handshake. You often can tell how enthusiastic people are by the way they relate to you through their handshake.

A handshake should be firm but not hard. It should be given with a warm smile.

It should not be an uncomfortable squeeze.

It should be short and to the point. Do not hold on. People who hold on to another person’s hand may make that person feel uncomfortable. Sometimes people will do this as a way of holding your attention. If a client does this to you, it is best to grin and bear it. But don’t do this to a client or gallery representative.

A handshake should not communicate in any way that one person is superior to the other. Do not squeeze the other’s fingers.

Get a good grip of the entire hand, and if you don’t get a good grip, do it over.

The “wet fish”

This is what we used to call a limp, soft handshake. When someone does this to you, you get the impression that the person is not really interested in having a strong connection, does not want to make a good impression or is indifferent. Some women do this because they think it is more gentle and feminine. It is not a good idea to do this. The “wet fish” communicates weakness of character.

The power squeeze

Some men like to show off their physical strength when shaking the hand of another man. It communicates superiority and the desire to dominate. It does not communicate sincerity and warmth, but just the opposite; it communicates cold, hard domination. If you have a strong grip, be careful how you use it.

The finger crusher

This happens when someone squeezes the fingers of another. It is not a handclasp but a finger crunch. The person on the receiving end feels put off and a little cheated. Sometimes it can happen when one clasps the other’s hand too soon. (Be sure that the flesh between the thumbs and the first fingers is touching before the hands close.) When I get one of these handshakes, I say quickly, “Let’s do that again.” At the same time, I gently take hold of the other person’s wrist, release my hand, and push it into the other person’s hand quickly before he or she knows what’s happening. That way we get a good handshake and start our meeting on a positive note.

The dominant/subordinate handshake

This happens when one of the parties has his hand on top of the other person’s. Usually, he comes in for the handshake with a circular motion from above. His hand comes down onto the other person’s. The dominant person has his hand on top of the subordinate person’s. It is done quickly, and the nonverbal message is that the person with the hand on top is dominating. If someone does this to you, simply straighten out your hand so that the dominant hand will be vertical alongside your own.

The friendly, warm handshake

The best handshake is the friendly, warm handshake, in which both parties clasp hands in a firm way. Both hands are vertical with their fingers pointing to the other person. The two clasps are equally firm-not squeezing, but firm. The shake is brief, friendly, and the two parties look each other in the eye and say, “How do you do?” or, “I’m very glad to meet you.” Usually, names are exchanged at the same time. It is the proper way today between two men, two women, or a man and a woman.

27 February 2014

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  1. Alexandra O.
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Alas! Now we have entered the era of no handshakes at all, and for my advanced age group, never again. Having been to lovely Thailand, I’ve always thought the ‘prayerful hands and bow’ greeting was the best, and I immediately felt at home with it. Of course, it’s foreign in the U.S., but I would sure like it to become the ‘second acceptable greeting’; however performed with eyes open and keeping visual contact. It’s hard to change old ways, and hopefully there will be a vaccine soon, and a return to proper handshakes as outlined above. And, as a person in the upper age group, I will continue to have the perfect excuse not to shake hands with a great many people who I have deemed, by their behavior during the ‘peaceful protests’, as not liking me as a person just by my (racial) appearance. Sorry — for the rest of you stuck in the multicultural paradise that is looming in the future, no matter who’s in office.

    • Gnome Chompsky
      Posted July 2, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink


      That gerture that you describe is by no means an equivalent of a handshake, it is a religious gesture, sometimes made in a secular context, only to appease powerful arseholes.

      Why are you so concerned about vaccines? You seem more than a little insane on that point.

  2. John Wilkinson
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I would have liked to have met this man. Sorry for your loss, our loss.

  3. Vauquelin
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    In light of the recent unpleasantness with the Coronavirus, there’s another tried and true greeting we could all use instead. It involves a flat palm and the arm raised at a certain angle.

    • Gnome Chompsky
      Posted July 2, 2020 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Well said. La Passa Romagna!

  4. DeathToMohels
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    The fleshy part between thumb and index finger can be referred to as the goink. For a successful handshake both must always go goink to goink!!

  5. Sartor
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    A lovely piece; a remarkable man. Wish I had known more about him.

  6. Gnome Chompsky
    Posted July 1, 2020 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I agree with parts of the article, but not all at all.

    A friend years ago coined or copied (I think coined) the slogan ‘white men shake hands’.

    I am loath to have a true handshake with a woman, and most seem to prefer the ‘wet jellyfish’, as stated in the article as a bad thing, but not wet.

    The Party, by Blake Edwards and starrring Peter Sellers, among many other things, has an American actor crushing his hand.

    The last half-hour is mostly a bore, but The Party is one of Seller’s masterpieces, to be ranked with Dr. Strangelove and Lolita.

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