When it comes to going to parties and meeting new people, sometimes it’s the little things that can be the most awkward and nerve-wracking.

I met with Tra’Renee Chambers to talk about two simple greetings that often cause people to fumble.

Check it out:

Never Forget Names Again

Have you ever been in a situation where you met someone at the beginning of a party then you run into them later on, after you’ve had a couple of drinks, or a few weeks later while you’re out, and you have no idea what their name is? It’s super awkward. I want to help you avoid ever having to deal with that again by teaching you how to quickly remember names.

The trick with names is that you have to consciously use your brain. Different parts of the brain activate when you process information audibly, verbally and visually. So, to maximize your chances of remembering names, you need to engage each of those parts. Here’s how:

  • Auditory: Give them your full attention when they say their name so you hear it without your brain being distracted by your thoughts.
  • Verbal: After they they say their name, say it back to them. For example, “Nice to meet you Michael. So what brings you here, Michael? What do you do, Michael?”
  • Visual: Think of all the people you know with the same name and picture this new person in a group among them.

If it’s a difficult name, the best thing you can do is think about what it sounds like. Rhyming their name with something you have memories of can activate parts of your brain that help you remember. For example, I met someone named Sura. I’ve never met someone with that name before, so I couldn’t associate them with anyone else. Instead, their name reminded me of Syrah wine and they said they liked wine. So, whenever I see Sura, I remember the wine and their name.

The Art of the Perfect Handshake

Handshakes matter just as much at parties as they do at job interviews. It’s important to know that not all handshakes are created equal.

While most advice focuses on the firmness of your handshake and hiding nervous cues such as shaky hands and sweaty palms, people rarely consider the angle of the handshake. Have you ever reached out to someone and they flipped your hand up? This is a very dominant gesture. When people with alpha personalities want to assert authority, they may tend to flip people’s hands up in handshakes. Whether they are aware of it or not, their brain subconsciously knows that when they place their hand on top when shaking someone’s hand it makes the other person feel less powerful. Another dominant handshake is when one person pulls the other person’s hand so hard that they are forced to come closer and slightly lose their balance.

Here’s an example of what that looks like:

Rather than engaging in one of the dominant displays, or letting someone do one of them to you, go for a nice, equal handshake where neither you nor the person you’re speaking to has the upper hand. Doing this is simple:

Keep your hand fully vertical and shake up and down.

In American culture, one pump means “It’s good to see you,” and two to three pumps means “I’m so happy you’re here.”

If you want to make your handshake more personal, put your other hand on top of the other person’s. This releases double the amount of oxytocin – the bonding hormone that is triggered by touch.

Warning: Use this double handshake with caution. Some people are uncomfortable being touched by people they don’t know well and will have a negative reaction toward the heightened level of intimacy. Save the double handshake for people who hug, place their hands on people’s arms and backs, and/or display other behavior that shows they are open to touch.

In addition to watching for other people’s level of comfort with touch, you can use body language to show yours. Here’s how:

  • If you want to hug, open your body with your arms out.  
  • If you don’t want to hug, approach with your body at an angle so you’re putting one arm forward for a handshake while angling the other side of your body away from the person.
  • If you don’t want a handshake, the best thing is put your hand up for a wave and say something like “Hi, it’s good to see you.”

Knowing how to approach handshakes is key to having great interactions at parties because it starts your interactions off on a positive note.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.

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