Shaking hands is inevitable in the business world. It's more important than anything else that you can do upon meeting someone. A good handshake can make you or break you. So why do so many people ignore that they are doing it wrong?
Giving a handshake should not be a strength contest. Far too often these "bone-crushers" are perceived by the initiator as an "I mean business" handshake. However, the people on the receiving end are subconsciously left wondering "why is this person trying to dominate me?"
How do you know if you are giving this kind of handshake? Watch the other person for a wince or an unexpected glance away. If they have been maintaining eye contact until the handshake, you can be pretty sure you are hurting them.
Next, the limp handshake. Men have a tendency to do this to women a lot. But, women aren't off the hook here. The problem with the dainty fingertip handshake is that it doesn't convey a message of equality. Women: stop giving only your fingertips to shake hands...it's a weak handshake.
To solve this, bend your fingers back toward your wrist as you go in for the handshake. This makes it very difficult to only offer up your finger tips for the handshake. Men, shake a woman's hand like you would shake a man's. It won't fall off.
Last, but not least, there is the "politicians handshake." Watch closely the next time you see two high level politicians shaking hands. The two handed clasp, followed by the pat on the arm is a major faux pas in the business world. What ends up happening is that both people start patting each other higher and higher on the arm to convey a message of dominance. Keep it to one hand.
Remember, a handshake is often your first impression. The message behind it is as important as anything that you may say later. Try to keep it simple, yet firm, grasping the whole hand, with only one hand. Look the other person straight in the eyes, conveying to them "good to meet you, let's do business."
Disclaimer: Remember that this is pertaining to U.S. customs. Handshakes are important in many cultures. Please brush up on the customary handshake for the location you are doing business in.