When you meet someone for the first time, how long does it take for him to form a lasting impression of you?

  • A. 20 seconds or less
  • B. 1 minute
  • C. 3 minutes

When shaking hands, what’s the correct number of times to pump the other person’s hand up and down?

  • A. three times
  • B. four times
  • C. five times

When meeting or greeting someone, when do girls and ladies stand?

  • A. only to greet other girls and ladies
  • B. to greet everyone
  • C. In social settings girls and ladies remain seated; in business settings ladies stand to greet everyone.

“He’s here, Maralee!” the doctor exclaimed with a mixture of relief and excitement. Immediately, I reached out my arms for my baby.  Even before the cord was cut, I was holding him, his fists clenched and eyes closed. I ever so gently rubbed my cheek against the velveteen hairs of his head. I felt bliss. My eyes watered in wonderment. My husband and I beamed at him, hugged him, and told him he was loved and special and a joy.

As I continued to talk to him, his eyes opened. They were as clear as two perfect diamonds, almost as big as his newborn fists, and as blue as the Caribbean sky. A few minutes into our bonding the most heavenly thing happened: His clenched fists uncurled. I gently placed my trembling pinkie into his delicate, open palm, and he instinctively squeezed my finger.

Marc Robert McKee was only three minutes old, yet I had been able to communicate to him that he was wanted and welcomed. Now, 15 years later, he’s six feet two, yet I still express my tenderness for him in pretty much the same way: a heartfelt smile, my complete attention, a touch, gentle words, and a gaze into his eyes.

We never outgrow our craving to reexperience our delivery-room welcome. It’s the simple gift of attention expressed as a look, a smile, a touch, and special words. When people purposefully meet or greet us in this way, they fill our human need to feel noticed, esteemed, and welcomed. In response, people are drawn to us as naturally as the compass is drawn to true north.

As we teach our children to warmly welcome others and explain how they can encourage people to instinctively uncurl their fists and let go of cynicism and self-centeredness, we give them the tools to earn respect, trust, and friendship.