Perhaps the most important thing you must get right when meeting someone is to leave a good first impression, it is to get your greetings right. Whether you are a candidate coming for an interview or a sales manager trying to impress a prospect customer. It could be a wai if you are Thai, a bow if you are Japanese, la bise (cheek kiss) to good friends if you are French, a firm handshake if you are American.
Screw it up and not getting your handshake, wai or bow correct, spells trouble ahead.
The challenge is in particular evident when two different nationalities clash. How often have I seen a Thai and a farang go from wai to handshake to nodding? If it wasn’t so serious, we could all have a good laugh. But here is the but.
If you are Thai meeting a farang (from America, Australia or Europe), you should expect to use a handshake as you introduce yourself. Many Thais struggle with the handshake and often get a meeting off to a really bad start because of a too weak and even wet handshake. Worst case scenario is that you risk losing everything even before you are seated.
If your handshake is too weak, the farang executive will jump to conclusion and see it as a sign of weakness, lack of confidence and interest, lack of masculinity. A handshake must be firm, not weak and not strong. The word is: firm.
So please, you must firm it up, and I recommend that you practice with a friend before the all important interview or meeting. Even better, find a foreigner who is willing to let you do a couple of handshakes to get it right.
Handshakes are simple. We got taught how to shake hands at school - eye contact, greeting and a firm (but not crushing) shake of the hand in an up and down motion two or three times. The handshake is an opportunity to make formal contact with someone else and welcome each other in an equal and friendly manner. No one likes the limp wet fish hand shake. It makes you feel the person you're meeting is not that engaged or not present. Worse than the wet fish is the alpha male power shake though. So if you are a power shaker like Donald Trump - stop! We know what you are doing and we judge you. It is not impressive - it's annoying. If you are a wet fish - try harder, be present!