The good strong handshake. It’s a sign of civil greeting on arrival, and polite thanks on departure. It’s a sign of agreement, of giving our word, of confidence. As a woman, I was taught that my handshake had to be firm to convey strength, particularly in a business setting.
Naturally, what does or doesn’t go with the handshake — how long to hold it, how many times to move up and down, whether or not you clap on the shoulder simultaneously or put a second hand on top — all of this varies by culture, by geography, by circumstance, and by habit.
But… Ladies and Gents, might we dispense with the overzealous vice grip?
I find myself nursing tendinitis in my right hand, the result of having indulged in too many house projects over the course of three weeks time. As satisfying as those projects were — who doesn’t have a long list they’ve been wanting to do for ages, delighted when they finally get them done? — I overdid it. And that, despite the lectures I was giving to myself about not getting carried away with the yard work, the painting update, the dreaded domestic disease of attacking baseboard cleaning and so on with my… you guessed it… right hand.
Now of course, as a writer prone to picking up a pen and scribbling, not to mention tap-tap-tapping on my iPad or banging away on my laptop keyboard, restricting my stronger writing-tapping-typing hand is challenging enough… Besides, as a woman who enjoys cooking from scratch, especially favoring veggies that require chopping, my current right-hand-off-duty status is annoying, to say the least.
Flash back to several days of reasonable behavior — tough enough for my Little Miss White Rabbit Get-It-Done self — and having eased off using my hand (and icing on frozen bagels), I suddenly found myself the recipient of a feverish flurry of fundamentally ferocious grips! Despite the many very nice people attached, I nonetheless cannot grasp such a grasp, having literally had my petite palm and fragile fingers crunched by a spate of eager and enthusiastic expressions of hello, goodbye, and all manner of main-à-main maneuvers in between.
I say again — might we dispense with the vice grip?
Curious about our handshaking histories and habits, I turned to the Internet for a little background. Certainly, I’ve been in environments, business and otherwise, where the handshake is less ubiquitous. For some of us, so accustomed to this rite of amicable accord, not to extend one’s hand or take it may be seen as offensive.
Yet Wiki tells us this about handshake habits:
… Customs surrounding handshakes are specific to cultures. Different cultures may be more or less likely to shake hands, or there may be different customs about how or when to shake hands.
Indeed. I’m reflecting on my years in the corporate world — a nice, rhythmic take-and-shake, up and down two or three times, versus the “bonjour” during my French séjours in which one definitive movement was the norm.
As for history, I had no idea just how old this ritual is, nor its intriguing origin. Wiki continues:
… ancient texts show that handshaking was practiced in ancient Greece as far back as the 5th century BC… The handshake is thought by some to have originated as a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon.
How cool is that?
All the more reason that if the open hand joined with another’s is intended to show no harm, that it ought to do no harm. Furthermore, although I believe in “never assume” when it comes to people and their circumstances, if you’re 6′ tall and 200 pounds faced with someone 5′ tall and 100 pounds, don’t you think you might want to consider that the Boa Constrictor Crush may not be the best call? Hello?
Seriously, the art of reading people includes some sort of sizing up of the other’s, well… size… no?
Listen. The wimpy handshake? Definitely a turn off — in the office, the library, the sales call, or the first date.
Firm? Sure. But for all those who are seeking to impress with a suggestion that you press 350 each night, might you accept a pleasant “nod” and a big smile from the person you’re greeting or leaving instead?
Now tell me… What’s your preference for diving into or ducking the handshake? Or do you live in a location where cheek kissing, air kissing, lip kissing, hugging, and handshaking are on the meet-and-greet menu?
Meanwhile, I’m reminding myself not to extend my pitiful paw for any reason until it’s better! And by the way, new to tendinitis, does anyone have any suggestions other than bagel-icing, Advil, and the ever-popular all-powerful healer, also known as chocolate?
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