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Nothing Up My Sleeve

“You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

How many times have you heard that one? We’re guessing it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of a million, give or take. But it doesn’t really matter. Its mathematical irrefutability notwithstanding, it’s simply true. And aside from cleanliness, good grooming, decent clothing, fresh breath, and trust-inducing eye contact, nothing can make or break a first impression like the handshake.

A firm handshake conveys measured strength, self-assurance, sincerity, good will, and a genuine joy in meeting the person whose hand you’re shaking. Anything other than that, not so much. How might anything other manifest? Let us count the ways.

You Should Have Stayed Home

If people you meet haven’t mastered the art of the firm handshake, chances are you’re going to get some variation on one of these:

  • The Dead Fish: You’ll know this handshake when the person you’re meeting puts a cold, clammy paw in yours with no suggestion of a responsive grip at all. If someone gives you the Dead Fish, don’t be afraid to stick a mirror under his nose, check his vital signs, or call 911.
  • The Hydraulic Press: The diametric opposite of the Dead Fish, purveyors of this handshake typically suffer from some manner of inferiority complex. Consequently, they feel compelled to molest your mitt with enough force to make it feel as if they’re trying to fuse your flesh and bone into a diamond.
  • The Dishrag: This handshake is as lifeless as the Dead Fish, but it at least manages to have a little warmth to it. If some poor soul gives you the Dishrag, you do have some options. You can tell him there’s nothing to be afraid of. You can offer him a hug. Or you can give him a cookie.
  • The Linger: Most uncomfortable of all, the Linger consists of a deceptively warm, firm grip, accompanied by direct eye contact … neither of which releases after a shake or two. As a result, you’re left feeling like the weather guy on TV who finished his forecast about 60 seconds before the director’s ready to end your segment. You’re stuck standing there — stock still and beginning to perspire, with a sick semblance of a smile plastered across your mug.

Don’t Bother

People who have nothing up their sleeves but a Dead Fish, a Hydraulic Press, a Dishrag, or a Linger should just stay home.

They won’t get second chances to make those first impressions anyway.


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