Never shake hands for longer than three seconds ‘because any longer triggers anxiety’

You should never shake hands for more than three seconds as such can trigger anxiety, spoil business meetings and damage relationships, a study has found. 

Researchers from the University of Dundee’s school of social sciences interviewed 36 participants about their working life and career prospects.

The subjects were then introduced to a second person, who would either shake their hand ‘normally’, for longer than three seconds, or not at all.

The social scientists analysed the reactions of the participants, who were not made aware of the significance of the handshake during the study.

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Researchers found that people who shook hands for too long when they were introduced were more likely to be anxious and less likely to laugh when around one another afterwards (stock image)

Researchers found that people who shook hands for too long when they were introduced were more likely to be anxious and less likely to laugh when around one another afterwards (stock image)

Researchers found that people who shook hands for too long when they were introduced were more likely to be anxious and less likely to laugh when around one another afterwards (stock image)

Donald Trump's lengthy and uncomfortable handshake with French leader Emmanuel Macron at a press conference in Biarritz, France in August set tongues wagging

Donald Trump's lengthy and uncomfortable handshake with French leader Emmanuel Macron at a press conference in Biarritz, France in August set tongues wagging

Donald Trump’s lengthy and uncomfortable handshake with French leader Emmanuel Macron at a press conference in Biarritz, France in August set tongues wagging

Dr Emese Nagy, a reader in psychology who led the study, said the findings highlight the importance of introducing ourselves appropriately.

 

She added: ‘Handshakes are a particularly important greeting and can have long-lasting consequences for the relationships that we form.

HOW TO DO THE PERFECT HANDSHAKE, ACCORDING TO SCIENCE 

Professor Geoffrey Beattie, former head of psychological sciences at the University of Manchester, in 2010 devised the equation for the perfect handshake.

He took into account 12 key measures – such as vigour, eye contact, hand temperature, positioning and length – needed to convey respect and trust to the recipient. 

This was his formula:  

  • Use right hand, a complete grip and a firm squeeze (but not too strong)
  • Ensure fingers are under the receiving palm
  • Position hand in a mid-point position between yourself and the other person
  • A cool and dry palm, approximately three shakes, with a medium level of vigour
  • Hold for no longer than two to three seconds
  • Keep eye contact throughout
  • Accompany with a good natural smile and an appropriate accompanying verbal statement

‘There has been evidence to suggest that many behaviours, such as hugs, fall within a window of approximately three seconds and this study has confirmed that handshakes that occur in this time frame feel more natural to those who participate in the greeting.

‘While shaking hands for longer may appear to be a warm gesture on the surface, we found that they negatively affected the behaviour of the recipient, even after the handshake was finished.

‘Politicians are particularly keen on prolonged handshakes, which are often used an expression of warmth but also as a means of demonstrating authority.

‘However, our findings suggest that while doing so might look impressive for the cameras, this behaviour could potentially jeopardise the quality of their working and personal relationships from the beginning, which could have repercussions for millions of people.’

The team found participants showed less interactional enjoyment after the longer handshake, laughing less and showing increased anxiety.

Handshakes lasting less than three seconds resulted in less subsequent smiling, but did feel more natural to those who participated.

No behavioural changes were associated with the no-handshake control experiment.

The results can be found in the Perceptual And Motor Skills journal, Effects Of Handshake Duration On Other Nonverbal Behavior.

Previously in 2011 Dr Nagy analysed hugs and what they say about shared experiences. 

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