A wrong handshake can send the wrong message. Someone’s “dead fish” handshake is read as weakness, that the person is indecisive or insecure. A “knuckle crusher” signals the person is overbearing, controlling or angry.
Paul Gilchrist, a junior at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, was confident in his handshake technique until he attended a business etiquette dinner hosted by OSU-Tulsa Career Services.
“My natural instinct has been to shake a woman’s hand more gently than I would a man’s,” said Gilchrist. “I thought I was being courteous but I learned that in a business setting it’s important to treat everyone equal and to keep my handshake consistent.”
During the dinner, Gilchrist practiced his handshake with other students as Callista Gould, certified etiquette instructor, guided them through the business etiquette of handshakes, introductions, name recall, conversation skills and business cards.
“Etiquette is not a bunch of stuffy rules designed to confine," said Gould, owner of the Culture and Manners Institute, Inc. "Etiquette is being aware of people around us and attentive to their needs. It's about making others feel comfortable."
Gould led the students through several group exercises. After the handshake exercise, students practiced acknowledging people with “how do you do,” which is more polished than “how are you?”
Then Gould gave tips about how to continue conversations with new people after acknowledging them. She suggested approaching the situation as if someone had asked you to write a story about this person. Start with basic questions and generate additional questions based on their responses.
During a group exercise, the students practiced asking questions to two volunteers. The practice paid off for Wendy Maxey, a senior at OSU-Tulsa, who attended the dinner.
“I’ve never been good at starting conversations because I feel as though I am prying into people’s lives,” said Maxey. “The group exercise was easy and I learned conversations should be easy, too. It takes practice but I feel better prepared to begin conversations with people I meet.”
Gould also prepared students for business meetings and interviews over meals providing tips for their role as guests.
“There is a lot to remember as a guest but Callista explained that guests follow the lead of hosts, including what to order,” said Maxey. “Before I wasn’t sure about ordering, but she proposed asking the host for suggestions on the menu, which gives an indication of what to order without over- or under-spending.”
Gould explained how to pick a restaurant, where to sit, when to order and how to handle small talk as a guest or as a host. The role dictates which etiquette tips to follow.
“Employers often incorporate lunches, dinners and social events into their interviewing process,” said Patti Schmigle, career services coordinator. “Gould helped students understand what they are likely to experience at these types of events.
The dinner provided a comfortable learning environment for students like Gilchrist who attended the event to practice and improve etiquette skills when it comes to networking and social events.
“All of the content was very useful and practical,” said Gilchrist. “I feel better prepared for the next networking event and I’ve already put the skills I learned into use.”
OSU Career Services has an extensive resource library available through HireOSUgrads.com which provides tips for business etiquette as well as job search methods and correspondence, career exploration and more.
Visit OSU-Tulsa Career Services in North Hall 130 to learn more about the services available to students and alumni or visit online at www.osu-tulsa.okstate.edu/careerservices/.