New study reveals the exact length of a perfect handshake

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I famously have an awful “limp-fish-nebbishy-no-talent-handshake.” I’m always worried of holding on too long so I just flop and let the receiver decide how long they want to be uncomfortable for. This method is not very effective, though I might be in the vicinity of progressive, according to a new study.  Using students from the University of Dundee, researchers determined that a handshake that lasts more than three seconds often triggers anxiety.

“Handshakes are a particularly important greeting and can have long-lasting consequences for the relationships that we form,” Dr. Emese Nagy, who is the reader of psychology who the helmed the new study, explained to the Telegraph. “There has been evidence to suggest that many behaviors, 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.”

Ultimately, the intended effect of a prolonged handshake (dominance and authority) is conveyed but at the expense of the participant’s comfort.

Shakin’ and stirred

After analysis, Nagy and her team surmised that a normal handshake length peaks at the three-second mark. A handshake that does not exceed this length is usually accompanied by smiles and laughter-both telltale signs of a successful greeting. If a handshake fell short of this length, there were noticeably fewer smiles but no visible predictors of anxiety. In fact, participants were still willing to describe these brief hand-teractions as “natural.”  Conversely, the longer the handshake carried on, the more the participants observed in the report felt like they were trying to be dominated over. This was especially true of handshakes that neared the 13-second mark.

“Politicians are particularly keen on prolonged handshakes, which are often used expression of warmth but also as a means of demonstrating authority,” Nagy added.

This is important because conventional wisdom often encourages members of the workforce to displays authority at any cost, but this new research animates these costs clearly. Although longer handshakes were deemed to be aesthetically imposing to the subjects watching, the lingering impression was consistently a negative one.

“Our findings suggest that while doing so might look impressive for the cameras, this behavior could potentially jeopardize the quality of their working and personal relationships from the beginning, which could have repercussions for millions of people.”

Be sure to read the full report, titled “Effects Of Handshake Duration On Other Nonverbal Behavior”, in  in the Perceptual And Motor Skills Journal.