I like to give a solid handshake. A solid handshake firmly reciprocated is an extremely friendly gesture. Its the kind of handshake you want to have when meeting someone important or trying to make a good impression like in a job interview or something. Unfortunately, handshakes can go awry and when they do, it’s is awkward. Every. Single. Time. The following is a list of how that happens, but first let me lay out the unspoken ground rules of awkward handshakes.

1. You can never have a handshake do-over. Never. You get one shot at this so don’t mess it up.

2. Handshakes aren’t perfect and everyone experiences them (so don’t feel bad). However…

3. If you read some of the awkward handshakes below and can’t identify, then understand that you are consistently giving out the particular awkward handshake i’m describing.

So let’s begin with an awkward handshake that is common.

The Vice Grip

Or what could be considered competition handshaking. The vice grip goes one step further. The other person on the line seems to be squeezing impossibly hard for social normality. In fact, they haveto be tensing their entire arm to have such a powerful handshake.

yes, he's shaking your hand on the outside, but in his mind...

The vice grip usually lasts longer than a solid handshake should and only ends when Superman decides to finally let you go. It’s like the most well mannered alpha dog move. Even if it hurts, the worst thing you can do is show pain by rubbing your hand or wrenching up your face. You just have to take it like a man. In fact, I’ve never gotten the Vice Grip handshake from a woman. Maybe when women shake hands they have their own version.

While the vice grip is maybe the most physically uncomfortable it’s not nearly as awkward as the rest of the handshakes. Such as…

The Limp Wrist

I know this is a derogatory expression from the 90s used to describe our alternative lifestyle friends but there may not be a more literal way to describe this exceedingly awkward handshake. The person just sticks his hand out there and when you grab it, he make no attempt to close his fingers or apply the presumably agreed upon shaking movement. As a result of his literal limp wrist you end up feeling like the Vice Grip guy. You feel like you are delivering the crushing blow and over exaggerating the up/down shaking motion because you are doing all the work.

This photo is almost TOO good

It’s like shaking hands with a 10 year old where you sort of think you might pull the kid’s arm out of her socket except, awkwardly, it’s a grown woman standing in front of you. The only good thing about the limp wrist is that it’s usually pretty easy to clasp hands correctly, unlike…

Meaty McMeat Hands

Some people have the strangest hands and one of the persons I have the hardest time getting a non-awkward handshake from are the ones who have super meaty (muscular?) hands.In order to get the true effect, this person’s hand should also be small. So when you clasp hands you feel like you are grabbing a rock-solid, lumpy baseball. What do these people do all day that makes their hands so bulky? I’m imagining someone putting together IKEA furniture all day without the use of any tools.

Quick grab your own hand and take notes:
1. When you squeeze the meaty parts of your palm does it feel like a clenched muscle?
2. When you cup your hands together do you think you could hold more or less than a cup of water due to your palms taking up most of the space?
3. Are your fingers short and stubby resembling any certain breakfast food made of pork and served as a “link?”

If your answers are:  ‘yes,’ ‘less,’ and ‘when I look at my fingers I get hungry,’ then I’d like to introduce you to yourself. Meaty McMeat Hands.

I sound delicious!

Sometimes a poor handshake doesn’t have anything to do with the person so much as it is a misfire. This is the case when…

I’m the Princess of Whales

This is not gender specific. A Princess of Whales happens when person A closes their fingers too quickly before person B gets her hand fully into position for a solid handshake. Person A ends up clenching person B’s hand right where her fingers meet her palms and she has no choice but to try and salvage the handshake by grabbing whatever part of person A’s hand is available.

50% of elderly ladies prefer this kind of handshake

Person A might as well lift person B’s hand up and give it a gentle kiss like I think they do to royalty and to all women in England. That’s how that handshake makes me feel inside. The problem is that since this is America and we’ve realized that the most unsanitary thing you can do is put someone else’s hand anywhere near your mouth you have to just stand there awkwardly shaking someone’s fingers and hope to kick the small talk in high gear. But at least your intentions were clear. Not so with…

The Half and Half

This one is simple. One person goes for a high five, the other person goes for a handshake. When each person realizes what the other is doing they both, simultaneously, adjust their greeting gesture to match the other and you end up with a hybrid handshake and high five. This can be refered to as the bro handshake and was perfected by Dutch and Dillon in Predator.


This is a legit handshake but only when you meant it in the first place. Normally, this is phase two of a handshake combo that begins traditional and ends with “blowing up fists” or something like that. But when you begin with the bro handshake you never really know how to follow it up. Some guys will just transition into the dude hug which is like throwing gasoline on the wildfire of awkwardness. “Yep, we screwed up our handshake so we decided to hug it out.”

With the half and half handshake you can know at least the person tried to accommodate you. Not so much with…

The Dirty Handshake

You can picture this clear as day: You are being introduced to someone by your friend and the person in question is doing something or holding something that is making his hands dirty and not suitable for handshaking. But when that window of opportunity opens he quickly flashes his palm against his pant leg and goes in for the kill.

You dare not refuse this handshake. After all, they went to so much trouble to clean up before a proper greeting.

my gift to you!

But at least they still want to greet you. When is a handshake not a handshake? When someone goes for…

The “everyone’s a [terrible] comedian” Handshake.

In this scenario some wise crack says, “let’s shake hands,” and then flaps their hands in hilarious ironic fashion. Of course I’m being ironic when I say hilarious. This impressed me one time when I was 8. Every time you use/tell this joke a useful part of your brain is straight up killed off. Stop. Just stop this madness.

So what did I miss? What awkward handshake still needs to be identified?


4 thoughts on “7 Terribly Awkward Handshakes

  1. You missed the “psych” handshake. Related to the comedian handshake, but when person A puts his hand out there, person B closes in clearly expecting a handshake. Person A then pulls his hand back at the last minute, points and laughs, The only possible response to this is laughter on the outside and wishing you were Wolverine so you could just go in for the kill with your claws while the other person has his ridiculous hand in the air laughing.

    1. Yeah they person who does the psych is supposed to act like he is brushing back his hair over his ear. It’s so obnoxious!

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