Handshake key to landing a job, scientists claim

Handshake key to landing a job, scientists claim

I occassionally warn/inform my students about this perception in American culture. Handshakes are certainly common in Korean society, but what is considered proper firmness (and duration) is different. Koreans apply less force and tend to engage longer than Americans. Not to mention the fact that they tend not to maintain eye contact during the handshake. Additionally, women tend not to shake hands as much as they would in America and, if they do, the pressure is nearly indiscernible.

From my anecdotal data (personal experience and interviews), the reason for this are varied:
(1) Firm handshakes imply a confidence that is seen to be more aggressive, pompous, or otherwise disrespectful. This seems to be more of a no-no when dealing with someone that should be respected such as guests (me in most cases), elders, and superiors.

(2) Duration notes endearment or a desire to communicate affection (whether real or just the impression thereof).

(3) Lack of eye contact is similar to reasons in #1. This does not mean that there is no eye contact, but it is not sustained. Even if the gaze is in the region of the eyes, it’s often just off the eye (eyebrow, nose, forehead, etc.).

(4) The handshake is still largely a male-male greeting. The more “westernized” people are, the more likely they are to shake your hand (both male and female). By westernized, I really mean that they have consistent contact with foreigners (non-Koreans & non-Korean residents), including those educated in English-speaking countries.

So, how do you explain proper handshake criteria to Koreans? You don’t, just demonstrate it. If you need to explain it, you might say that the grip is firm enough to squish tofu, but light enough not to damage a grape 🙂

In addition, make sure they understand some of the cultural understandings (though these may differ from person to person or region to region). Weak handshakes may indicate moral/physical weakness, dishonesty, lack of confidence, and other negative characteristics. Strong handshakes are the opposite: moral/physical strength, honesty, confidence, and other positive characteristics (supported by the study above). These beliefs are not always (or even ever) true, but they are ingrained into the American psyche.

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