When I meet someone for the first time my father’s voice reminds me, “Always make eye contact, smile, dress smart and shake hands with firm enthusiasm.”
A weak handshake was a symptom of insecurity and feebleness that would almost certainly be manifest in other aspects of a person’s personality, according to my father. While I may not entirely agree with his view, I am put off by cold, weak or limp handshakes.
A two-handed handshake meant that person was seeking the upper hand; their hand grasping yours their other hand holding your arm. My father’s take on the two-handed shake was that it was a gesture of control rather than comradeship, it was not good etiquette. It followed that a weak handshake indicated a neuroticism and less confident personality.
I was fourteen years old when he and I practised shaking hands. We did the limp-wrist, the wet fish (sweaty palms and a weak hand shake), the knuckle-crusher and the two-handed nice-to-meet-you-I’ve-got-you-under-control version and of course the firm hand shake.
When the day came I made eye contact, smiled and shook hands with everyone and made my father proud when people remarked how respectful, grown up and well-mannered I was. My father, unwittingly, taught me that I could hide strong emotions and a quivering heart with my firm handshake. He said it was important that I knew how to behave towards others who were grieving at … my mother’s funeral.
I am circumspect in my judgements at first meetings. Firm handshake notwithstanding, I am waiting for others to provide evidence of their personality because I understand what can be harboured in our hearts while we present ourselves as respectful, polite and open.
Perhaps it is disingenuous to mask those feelings and hope for a good first impression. I prefer to think we earn the right to know what others think of us as we earn the right to understand their hearts.
Different times, different psychology.