This I Believe

Ryan - Rye, New York
Entered on January 6, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family

Giving a good handshake sets the tone for a relationship. Nothing says ‘hello’ better than a firm grip, and eye contact. When I was seven years old, I traveled eight hours in the backseat of our car to Pittsburgh to visit my grandfather. I opened the door and saw his thatch of white hair, and a long boney hand in front of my face. I barely latched on to his palm and shook lightly. He squeezed my hand so hard, it looked as if my fingers were a bundle of sticks. “Boy, you need to learn how to shake hands like a man.”

Home in New York my dad warned me, if I worked for him, he would fire me because of the delicate handshake. My uncles started calling me Susan, and I became upset. I didn’t think I deserved to be persecuted because of a weak handshake, at the age of seven. What did it mean anyway? I quickly learned it was the basis of all relationships. The guys in our family told me that the handshake is your first impression. Think about it. What is the first thing one does when they meet someone for the first time? They shake hands.

During that visit, my grandfather told me there are four parts to the perfect handshake. The first is eye contact. Make sure the person knows you are speaking to them, and you are in their world. The eyes will bring the mind along. Next is the firm grip. If you shake the hand hard, the person will know you have a personality, that you mean business. Third is the introduction. When you shake a hand, you must give some type of greeting. A ‘hello’ or a ‘how are you?’ It informs the other person that you are respectful and thankful for the shake.

Last is the number of pumps. During a solid handshake you must make sure that you don’t over or under pump the hand. Two is the best amount. It’s not taking up all day, but it is showing you are paying attention. People usually pump too much when they are excited, and don’t pump enough revealing they don’t care. If all these steps are completed, then you are more likely to have a better relationship with that person. A good foundation has been set. If someone were to give me a weak handshake, I would feel uneasy, perhaps think less of him or her, from a personal and professional standpoint.

Lastly, there is not a person in the world who enjoys the old dead fish technique, with the palm up, accompanied by a flimsy ‘catch’—like a seven-year-old-kid.

I believe, if everyone gave good handshakes, the world would be a better place. On job interviews, people automatically give a firm handshake to communicate a professional readiness. The opportunity for a handshake can strike at any time of any day, and if we are anxious to complete this greeting, our society can only benefit. It’s a start-up for communication.

I try to give everyone a handshake at least once in the beginning stages of our relationship. And, I make sure to use the four-point-plan of the Rossi technique. There are all kinds of methods, daps for the brothers, gentle ones for females. Your handshake depends on your audience. This past summer, at seventeen, I worked for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. As I walked across Knoll field Coach Mike Tomlin stuck out his large black hand to me. I made eye contact. I said, “Hello, great to meet you, Coach.” I gripped hard. Pumped twice. Tomlin said, “Good handshake, my man.” I believe our handshake was the real deal.