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Though it makes not a sound, a handshake can speak volumes. "Your handshake says a lot about who you are, how you feel about yourself, and how you feel about the situation you're in and the people you're dealing with," says Hilka Klinkenberg, managing director of Etiquette International, an etiquette consulting firm in New York City.

To send a positive message with your handshake, Klinkenberg suggests extending your hand with the thumb up and open; wrap your fingers around the other person's hand and shake once or twice from the elbow, not the shoulder. The result will be a firm handshake that is neither too weak nor too strong.

Keep your right hand free so you'll always be prepared to shake hands. That means carrying a portfolio, briefcase or handbag in your left hand. At cocktail parties, hold your glass in your left hand to keep your right hand from becoming cold or wet.

Klinkenberg advises keeping the issue of handshakes in context. "Pay attention to the eye contact, general posture, and other body language to see if it supports the signal you're getting from the handshake." For example, not all cultures are comfortable with touching; people from such cultures may offer weak handshakes, but it doesn't necessarily mean these people are weak or ineffective.

Even so, in the United States, Klinkenberg says, "a handshake is really the appropriate greeting. You should do it every time you're introduced to somebody or whenever you begin and end a meeting. Get your hand out there--it shows that you're taking control of the situation."

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