There is nothing worse than a limp handshake.

I teach senior-level design students on the side and pepper in best business practices during class. One of them is the importance of a good handshake.

I’ve shaken many hands, not politician-level shaking, but enough to be able to know much of who a person is by their handshake. Without a word you can convey the kind of character you have.

A good handshake is firm, right palm to right palm (unless you’re a Scout), with a bit of a pump, subtle, almost by reflex. Keep eye contact while pleasantries are exchanged and you’ve made a solid first impression, or re-impression, or a goodbye. It conveys self-confidence and respect for the shakee.

Bad handshakes are either side of that.

A limp handshake is timid, shy, lacking self-confidence. When you reach forward and grab limp fingers that collapse in your hand, I always feel sorry for that person. It doesn’t matter if you’re skinny or small, even the frailest of people can offer a good handshake.

I lose respect for the person with a crushing handshake. It’s a display of ego and power and I have no time for people like that. There’s a difference between an extra firm handshake and a crushing one. I had an uncle who delivered milk and the resulting strength made shaking his hand feel like I was shaking a padded vice. But he never tried to overpower me, it was just a hand that was very strong. Other men (it’s always men) have treated it like a subtle arm wrestle, trying to crush my hand as a contest of who’s the more powerful.

I’ve messed up a few handshakes, miss-timed the squeeze, catching me or the other person unprepared. I’ve even offered a do-over on such occasions! It’s good for a laugh and is a great icebreaker. Practice with a friend if you’re new to social situations where handshakes are expected and unsure of how yours comes across. Ask me if we cross paths! It’s easy to master and is an important part of a business conversation.

Bonus protip: If you have a cold drink in hand, always hold it in the left. Cold, damp handshakes make you come across as sweaty, nervous or a standing corpse.