Kim Hudson: Lessons from 296 handshakes


Last month, I had the honor of participating in James M. Bennett High School’s graduation ceremony. As a member of the school board for Wicomico County Public Schools, it is a privilege to assist in handing out diplomas to the graduates.

Along with offering my congratulations I also shake hands with each and every graduate as they come across the stage.

This year that amounted to almost 300 handshakes. Let me tell you, with that number of handshakes all at once, I learned a few things that I’d like to pass along.

Most notably, no two handshakes are alike.

Those 296 graduates each had their own style as you can imagine. I’ve certainly shaken my fair share of hands over the years but never before has it been so apparent to me how important the art of the handshake is. When you have that many shakes to compare it becomes quite evident that some are good and some are – well … bad.

We talk to our kids about many things in life but quite honestly I had not given a thought to how my children shake hands. I don’t usually shake hands with my kids or their friends. I typically hug or give a shoulder squeeze. But after being witness to a number of bad shakes, I knew I needed to pass along some tips.

Trust me when I tell you it is worth the 10 minutes it will take to show your child the proper way to shake hands. Don’t assume they already know how. And believe me their handshake really can leave a lasting impression.

So what makes a handshake good? I can only share what I have experienced and what I shared with my children.

The No. 1 element of a good handshake, above everything else, is eye contact. You must look the recipient in the eye; otherwise the handshake is virtually meaningless. It only takes a few seconds to make good eye contact but it is so important.

Of course your grip is a vital component too. Not to sound sexist but I know many dads have spent some time modeling this for their sons. Trust me when I tell you it is just as important to teach this skill to your daughters. Too many girls give a limp handed handshake that leaves a pretty bad impression.

While a too limp handshake is not good neither is a grip that feels like your hand may break. A firm handshake is best but there is a fine line. Often males are not aware of their own strength. We should teach them to be aware of whose hand they are shaking. A smaller man or woman is more impressed with a solid handshake than one that bruises bones.

One more thing; teach your children to let go of the other person’s hand. I can’t tell you how many students kept walking with my hand still in their grip. So practice with your children. Have other adults practice with them as well.

A handshake is a vital part of making a good first impression.

Contact Kim Hudson at

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