The Secret “Integrity Handshake”

This week I’m going to share with you what I like to call the integrity handshake, or “The Secret Handshake of Integrity” for private investigators – or anyone really!

I’m going to share with you two embarrassing things, truly embarrassing. There’s no reason for me to tell you about them except as an example for you of the way things go in real life sometimes.

The Secret Integrity Handshake

I’m not sure that I invented that phrase. If I got it from anyone, I think I might have gotten it from John C. Maxwell, who has written several books. I’ve got several of his books and they are all excellent. I suggest you look at the different titles he has and pick the one that fits where you are in your business or life at this time. Get that book and read it. You really can’t go wrong with anything that he’s written.

But the whole idea of The Integrity Handshake revolves around when you don’t know something. When you don’t know something, what should you say? How should you handle it? To me, the proper answer, when you don’t know the answer, is, “I don’t know”. And that is the Integrity Handshake. When you don’t know the answer, admit it. Say, “I don’t know”.

Talking With Potential Clients

I mean even if you’re talking to a client or (and this is really when it’s hard to do), admit if you don’t know something. But it is hard to do because, after all, you’re supposed to be the expert! You’re experienced. You’ve got your license. They’re looking to hire you and pay you money to do what you do best (probably what you love to do!), and then they ask you something and you just don’t know the answer. That’s when, “I don’t know”, shows them you have the integrity too admit it. It says you’re not going to try to fake it. It says you will be honest with them. It shows integrity!

That’s why I call it the secret integrity handshake.

Let’s face it. When I ask a question to someone I want to hire, I may not know the answer to the question, but I can tell if they’re faking it! And I’ll bet you can too!

I mean, I don’t know how to play piano, but I can tell when someone hits the wrong note!

Maybe the client asks you to do something and you don’t know or understand what it is. Just ask. Clear it up. Let me give you two examples of times I didn’t know the answer.

A Real-World Private Investigator Example

One time, I was at a Private Investigator Conference. They have seminars and the speakers, and whatnot. We were at a break. So me and another P.I. were in the hotel restaurant eating lunch. I forget if he was ex-cop or an auxiliary officer at the time, but he was a private investigator as well.

Of course, at these conferences, you end up, sooner or later, sitting around telling war stories with each other about cases you’ve worked.

As he was telling me about a particular case he worked, and he said, “We went up to the guy, we tossed tin, he tried to run and we had to go and catch him and wrestle him to the ground.” I didn’t quite know what he meant by “toss tin”. In fact I thought he was saying “toss ten”. But I understood what he was talking about generally.

A little while latter, he used the phrase “toss tin” again. I had to stop him and say, “I don’t know what that means, ‘toss ten’.”

He said, “Oh, we showed him our badges. Our little ‘tin’ police badges. We flashed them to the guy. We showed him our badges”.

That’s what he meant by tossing tin.

Where I worked we just called it “badging” the person. As in, “I badged him” meaning, “I identified myself by showing him my badge.”

It wasn’t any kind of problem for me not to know what “toss tin” meant. It doesn’t make me less of an investigator. It doesn’t make cases I’ve worked any less valid. We just had different terminology.

But, what if…

Imagine for a moment, if I had been foolish enough to try to play along as if I understood!

What if I had tried to “one-up” they guy with my own stories saying, “Yeah, you know, we used to toss ten or sometimes toss eleven or twelve.” Ouch! How ridiculous would I have looked if I had tried to pull something like that! I would not have looked like a professional and I would not have impressed him. In fact, it would have shown him I was a “wanna’ be” and not anyone to be talking to! If I had done that, he should’ve immediately picked up his lunch and walked away!

So look, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know something. That’s the integrity handshake.

A Case Study

Let me give you one more example. This one is important to you in particular because it had to do with a potential client.

This was when I was trying to get into process serving. I was actually marketing myself as, “I’ll serve process for you”.

I’m really good at finding people. I’m an excellent skip tracer. I can find people. So I marketed my services to law firms saying, “I will find and serve anybody. Your toughest case, whatever you’ve got.”

So, I get a call from a law firm. They bring me in. They’re ready to hire me. They’ve got some service packs right there in front of them for me to serve! They said to me, “Here they are. Make sure you file the return of service down at the courthouse.”

Now, I’m new. I don’t understand what they mean by “file return of service”.

I understand how to serve process. I’d done enough research, but I’m still kinda’ feeling my way in the dark on this!

When they said, “file a return of service”, I just turned to them and said, “I’ve never filed something with the court. I don’t know what that is.”


I understand now what an outsider, rookie, “I don’t know what I’m doing” question that is.

At the time, I didn’t realize what a super-simple, basic thing that was and that everybody (EVERYBODY!) knows how to do that except for me.

But, I asked the question and I’m glad I did because they said, “Oh, you take the ‘return of service’ page, bring it down to the clerk of court’s office and you give it to them. They’ll punch it in the time clock. You can get a copy of it if you want.”

Okay, no problem. I can do that.

But when they first said, “file with the court”, in my mind, I immediately imagined I was going down to the courthouse and had to go to the file rooms. I imagined I had to do all this kind of crazy stuff.


If you’re worried about any kind of stuff like that and you’re interested in process serving, get my Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Process Serving. I explain everything in detail. You’ll know it all so you won’t have that embarrassing moment like that.

The Lesson

I mean, I’m literally standing in front of a client who’s ready to hire me and hand me the paperwork. They said something I didn’t understand and I had to say, “I don’t know”.

Was it a deal breaker? Nope. Did they still hire me? Oh yes! I worked for them forever. I worked for them for a years!

Don’t be afraid that you’re going to lose business because you don’t know something. To be honest with you, if you do miss out on that case, that’s the way things go. God makes everything work out for the good of those who love him. This time, it wasn’t meant to be.

That client was not meant to be your client. Move on. Learn more. Keep marketing, but if you don’t know something, admit it. When you do admit it, the only thing it tells that other person, if they’re even slightly reasonable, is you’re somebody they can trust. You’re not going to try to pull the wool over their eyes or pretend to be something you’re not!

If you’ve had a circumstance like this or you want to add something to the conversation, drop it in the comments. In the meantime, remember, do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.

If you like these helpful tips, then don’t miss out on my free special report If You Want To Be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. You can get it right here…

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Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

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