How to shake hands


SMALL PRINT:Martin McGuinness will make history tomorrow when he shakes Queen Elizabeth’s hand in Belfast. What does etiquette suggest he do to ensure the moment passes off smoothly? Charles Kidd edits Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage, Debrett’s being a publisher of books on etiquette since the 18th century.

“It’s just a very straightforward handshake, and a bow from the neck is also customary,” Kidd says, adding that anyone shaking the queen’s hand should take care not to grip her hand too tightly. “Just a brief and light handshake is the best way to describe it. Not too hearty, and not too much more a shake, really; it’s more of the hands lightly gripped.”

What should McGuinness say to the queen? “You would say, ‘Your majesty,’ as you’re introduced and shake hands. That’s about it.”

Outside of royal meetings, handshaking remains a simple yet important greeting that many people still fail to get right. Pamela Fay of Business Performance Perspectives, an Irish company that teaches business etiquette, says a handshake is a vital part of starting a relationship. “It’s a welcome, it’s a greeting, it’s an important form of contact,” she says. “Irish people like a quick handshake, shaking a hand three times, and you don’t keep holding their hands. A strong, firm handshake is important.”

McGuinness will have to loosen up on the firmness of a traditional Irish handshake for his royal encounter, but ultimately Kidd stresses the ease of the royal handshake. “It’s a relatively simple, polite exchange.”

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