It all has to do with the advise my illiterate grandfather gave me
To most people, the incidental hand shake is nothing more than a formality, a demonstration of civility. To me, it is an opportunity. You see, there is one very important assessment you can make upon meeting someone and shaking his/her hand.
My grandfather, who was illiterate until he met my grandmother, taught me a thing or two...mostly about ethics and honesty. He suggested that when I met someone and I shook their hand, that I must look at them straight in the eyes. He had a theory that when you shook somebody's hand and they looked away, or they looked down, that person didn't think you were either important enough for them to bother with you, or, that person was not righteous, perhaps had something to hide.
I have met four Presidents: Kennedy, Reagan, Nixon and LBJ, I shook their hands and had a brief interchange of words.
I met President Kennedy when I sang with The Young Americans” and we were part of the entertainment for a dinner Kennedy gave in Los Angeles for the President of India at the Coconut Grove. He came backstage and shook our hands...and when he shook mine, he not only grasped my hand, but he also extended the other hand to clasp mine...and he looked at me straight in the eyes...I knew then the man was righteous.
Just a few short time later, I was working in the tailor shop where Regan had his suits made. He was then running for Governor of California and I was in the office when Mrs. Mariani called me and asked me to come downstairs because she wanted me to meet somebody. Right there on the pavement of Rodeo Drive in Beverly hills, Mrs. Mariani was speaking to this man and she turned to me and said: “Raul, I want you to meet the next President of the United States. He extended his hand and I did too...I looked at him straight in the eyes and he looked down, then looked away. I knew then he wasn't worth a shit.
I went away to college and did my first year at Southern Illinois University. While a student there, I worked for the University Catering Service. President Nixon came to Carbondale for some dinner and I was one of two waiters assigned to the head table. I did notice that Nixon was evasive, not even acknowledging my presence...I was a servant he didn't have to be bothered with or even recognize my existence.
I have to admit it...the thought crossed my mind as I retrieved the President's dinner plate from the kitchen assembly line...should I spit on it? Perish the thought...he's not even worth my spit.
Pat Nixon, who was a chain smoker, had her ashtray dumped by me at least three times, then when I came back to refill the coffee, I started to pour it into her cup and she actually put her hand over the cup. Naturally, she burned herself. I felt bad, but it was a matter of her not paying attention. I almost lost my job that night.
A couple of years later, I was a student at the University of Texas and I audited a course taught by Lyndon B. Johnson.
LBJ did the nation wrong by the war in Vietnam, his domestic reforms, collectively known as the “Great Society”, brought about the greatest improvements in domestic life since the New Deal of FDR, and has not been matched since by any President. Say what you will about him, but I ran into him a couple of times on campus. The first time he shook my hand and looked at me in the eyes...the second time, much to my surprise, he even remembered my name.
I often sat in the front row as not to miss one word he said. LBJ had the best eye-contact of any public speaker I had known then and since.
So, do yourself a favor, apply this technique of shaking the hand and looking at the person in the eyes. Also, play a little game in your mind in order to associate the name with the face...it works almost every time. That is not to say that you should dispose of that person's friendship, but at least be vigilant and prepare yourself for any disappointments if they look down or away.