A man is defined by his strong handshake. Men spend a lot of time, in fact, thinking about and instructing others on the proper firm handshake. There are so many ways to do it wrong. A guy can be a hand-crusher, always trying to prove something as if he’s trying to grind the bones of your fingers into your wrist. He can be a limp noodle, which is even worse, and any real man can tell you how disconcerting it is to shake someone’s hand only to find you’ve got a dead fish in your grasp. Or a guy can strive for that happy medium and offer a firm handshake that doesn’t go too far but which shows that he’s aware, alive, and engaged.
Think about every time you’re at a party and you meet someone new. Don’t you experience a moment’s hesitation when it comes time to shake his hand? That’s because you don’t know what you’re going to experience. Will he give you the limp dead fish grip, or will he give you a firm handshake? Worse, will he grab hold as if he’s trying to beat you up through your wrist? That’s the hand-crusher, and he’s always super aggressive, as if he thinks clamping the hell out of your hand is going to teach you a lesson before you’ve even said hello. That’s what hand-crushing is all about, after all. It’s about teaching you that he’s in charge and you had better mind your place.
(There’s a little trick you can do when you meet a hand-crusher, by the way. When you grip his hand, extend your index and middle finger along his wrist. This helps disrupt the grip dynamic and keeps him from being able to crush away at you quite so badly because it changes how the bone structure of your hand is shaped.)
Then there’s mister dead fish. In some ways this is worse than having your hand crushed. A healthy guy expects to meet a hand-crusher now and then, because males live in circles of dominance and are accustomed to being challenged from time to time. When you get a limp grip, though, it throws you off your game and actually disrupts the flow of the social situation. You spend a moment’s hesitation wondering why any guy would grip your hand that way. How do you respond? Some guys disengage the handshake as soon as they can. Some will turn into hand-crushers just to elicit a response.
There’s an even worse handshake guy out there, though, and that is the premature grip guy. This is a guy who, when he takes your hand, clamps down almost immediately, before you can get your hand positioned in his grip. Then you’re trying to give him a handshake but only your fingers are inside his grip, and you can’t get your thumb positioned properly. Depending on how fast he clamps down on you, this is almost like forcing you to give a limp grip in response. It is incredibly obnoxious and people who do it are either just really lousy at shaking hands, or they do it on purpose out of, again, a sense of dominance.
All of this makes perfect sense… until he greets, instead of a man, a woman. There are a few ways to deal with greeting a woman. Some people are content to give air-kisses at the cheek. Some men will actually take her hand and kiss it as if they’re a romance novel figure or something out of a terrible romance-comedy movie. Some men will deliberately let their hands go limp when greeting a woman. And worse, some will grip a woman’s hand like they’re contesting with a dominant male, resulting in crushed fingers and a woman who is either upset or put off.
As you can imagine, this gets even more awkward when you are meeting a lady to take out for a night on the town. You want everything to go well. You want it to be perfect, in fact, and you probably worry about a lot of factors that, strictly speaking, aren’t in your control. So one of the things you CAN change, one of the things you CAN control, is not putting off your date when you get started. To do that, you’ve got to know what not to do and what to do. How do you greet her with just the right mixture of formality and intimacy? How do you set the tone and control the momentum of the date?
The first thing you want to do, when your lady walks into the room for the first time, is meet her gaze. Don’t go all unblinking and creepy about it. Juts make eye contact and hold her there, as if she’s very important to you (but not, you know, in a creepy stalker way). If you can’t find that balance, honestly, dating might not be for you.
When you take her hand, make sure you don’t go too hard or too soft. Don’t give her a limp grip, but if necessary, let your hand go rigid spo that you can apply only so much pressure and return a firm surface that does not crush her bones against each other.
Whatever you do, don’t get too familiar too fast. Air-kisses by the cheeks are something women do; they are not appropriate for a man unless you are encountering a woman you already know well and with whom you have a more than acquaintance-level relationship. And avoid the courtly gestures like kissing her hand, because that’s just going to come across as either corny or creepy. Remember, you absolutely cannot afford to come on too strong too fast, or she’s going to be put off, and then you’ll either be fighting uphill to change her impression, or the night’s going to end as a bust.
When greeting a woman for the first time, a lot depends on context. Keep it light and know your boundaries. How the night develops depends on you.