We’ve all heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” And yet, one of the things that I have noticed lately is that kids don’t seem to know as many of the social graces that I learned when I was a kid.

I wanted to mention just a few of them so that you can make your son or daughter ‘presentable’ to a society that values such things. Things like shaking hands, learning names, complimenting others, learning to listen and even an obscure skill like writing a decent letter with decent handwriting. Let’s talk today about shaking hands and remembering people’s name.

Shaking Hands:

It’s important when greeting anyone to look them directly in the eyes. This is always the case, unless it isn’t. WHAT? You may be asking? Well, there are certain cultures where looking directly at someone can be not just uncomfortable but culturally unacceptable. One example I experienced was a native American Indian tribe. The kids were terribly uncomfortable looking directly at us when we taught one of our Camp Millionaire programs for them a couple of years ago. If you are going to be interacting and/or doing business with another culture, it is always a great idea to do a little research prior to any meeting so that you understand what is acceptable and appropriate for that culture. Whenever possible, you want to put the other person at ease. This helps you build rapport with the person and When you have rapport with someone, everything is easier.


So when you teach your son or daughter how to shake hands, let them practice with you, other family members, and also take the time to instruct your children’s friends as well, just in case they aren’t being taught this important skill.

In terms of the handshake, it’s always fun to play with your kids and show them all of the awful handshakes you’ve experienced. It will make them laugh and when kids are having fun, they remember so much more. Show them the limp fish, the girly, and on and on. Just have fun with it.

Then, show them how to do it correctly. Make sure they slip their hands in toward the other person’s hand so that the inside palms touch. Grasp the person’s hand firmly but not so that it hurts. Hold the handshake just long enough to make good contact, look the person in the eyes, introduce yourself, repeating the person’s name back to them to help lock it into memory and then let go.

The question always comes up about when and how to shake a woman’s hand. Here’s what I’ve read. When you’re in a business situation, shake a woman’s hand in the same way that you would shake a man’s hand. When in a social situation, extend your hand to a woman who is the same age as you or younger. When greeting a woman who is more mature, wait until she extends her hand to you.

OK, what if you’re in another country and they do things like kiss on the cheek, or both cheeks or hug or something else? My suggestion is to just go with it. Again, developing rapport with others takes you further than anything else so do what is customary and acceptable when traveling whenever possible.

Let’s talk about remember names. It is my experience that people who say they are bad with names are bad with names and people who work at remembering people’s names by using tricks, tools and other methods, remember names. Want a couple of tricks? Great. First, stop saying you are bad with names. That will help immensely. Second, make a point of remembering their name and the following tricks will help.

• Relate the person’s name to someone else you know with the same name

• Spell the person’s name with your finger on your leg to make a ‘picture’ of it in your mind

• If the person has on a name tag, look at the name long enough to make a picture of it in your mind

• Find a funny way to remember the person’s name. Here’s a example of something I did one time to remember a person’s name. I took a few swing dance classes a couple of years ago and there was this guy named Victor. I had the hardest time remember his name and he was a great dancer so I always felt awkward that I kept forgetting. Finally, I noticed that he always came from work and had on his work shirt and that he worked for the city parking department. I thought to myself, “Parking, parking violation, violation starts with V and so does his name, VICTOR!” I remember his name to this day!

Another example? I was strolling through a park a year ago and there was this adorable little girl who climbed on a rock to please herself and her parents. I made a comment to her about how pretty she made the rock and asked her name. It was Heiley (highly). That was easy. She was perched up ‘high’ on the rock. Word associations with people’s names work great.

• One of the best ways is to repeat the person’s name at least three times when you meet him or her, “Hi Jane, it’s so great to meet you. Jane, where do you live? Wow, that’s great, Jane. It was nice to chat, Jane. Bye.” Works like a charm.

• Also, when you part, say his or her name a few more times to yourself in your head. You’ll be surprised at how much better you become with names.

• And finally, start repeating this affirmation over and over to yourself, “I’m remember everyone’s name easily and quickly.” And you will!

So, go teach your kids how to shake hands and remember people’s names. Ask them why it might be important for them to learn to do these things well? Give them every opportunity to practice doing it so that as they reach adulthood, at least their first impressions will get them through the door.