THAT old saying “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” was never truer than it is today.

The way we greet people in person is particularly important because so many people greet others virtually – on the phone, by email, text, WhatsApp or whatever.

Nothing beats a warm, face-to-face greeting for ensuring that positive first impression, yet many people squander the opportunity. In business, that firm, warm handshake and a positive “Hello” sets the scene for a good relationship.

Apparently, scientists now believe that the strength of your handshake can predict your future lifestyle. Those with a firm handshake may have a lesser chance of suffering a heart attack, diabetes or dementia than those with a weaker handshake.

Length of time the handshake lasts is a tricky one. Too short and you look dismissive; too long and we’re in stalker territory.

You can radiate confidence from your handshake. It’s no coincidence that top politicians often not only offer a vice-like grip but include an arm-hold with their other hand – a double handshake to doubly impress.

In general, three to four seconds seems to be an average, preferably accompanied by a welcoming smile.

If you’re going for a job interview, a mumbled “Hiya” is set to disappoint, especially linked with a weak handshake. And don’t get me started about moist handshakes – horrible!

They should give handshake and greeting tuition in schools. It’s one of life’s really valuable practical lessons.

Mind you, the word “hello” seems to have fallen from favour with many people these days. They go for “Hi” or “All right?” as an opening gambit (although the latter may make those recovering from an illness think you’re inquiring about their condition and you really don’t want a detailed health statement to follow.)

It’s believed that “hello” didn’t become “hi” until the telephone arrived. It was Thomas Edison who urged people who used the phone to say “hello” when answering. Rather than inquire “Are you there?” which they were doing.

Interestingly, his rival Alexander Graham Bell, who actually invented the telephone, preferred “ahoy”— which sounds really bizarre on the end of a phone line. Bell used this greeting constantly, however, although, unlike the phone, it didn’t catch on.

Greeting people by email is also a matter of style. “Hi Mr Smith” seems to be one popular choice, closely followed by “Hi there”. And then there’s the thorny problem of closing emails.

“Kind regards” and “Best wishes” still seem the most popular, especially for business emails, although some traditionalists cling to “Yours sincerely” and the very informal may opt for “See you”. Actually, put that at the end of my emails and you definitely won’t.

It’s very easy when sending an email on your phone to forget that it might be read on someone’s iPad or PC. Text-speak here just sounds wrong – but it’s a common habit for many for any message sent from their phone.