Why have bad-handshakes become the social equivalent to the little black dress? This foul mannered cousin to air kissing has become an epidemic. It’s being “handed” down and spreading fast. A probable result of Tit for Tat behavior, something has to be done about it.
At a recent cocktail party I was introduced to a someone that seemed nice, until I extended my hand out to her. I then felt like I had entered a Sub-Zero fridge. She took a few seconds longer than I had expected to respond to my outstretched arm. When she finally did, I felt I had shaken hands with a dead tilapia.
I gave her the benefit of the doubt and attributed her lack of enthusiasm to arthritis, germaphobia or an extreme case of shyness. I can’t expect everyone to be overjoyed to greet me. And then it happened again and again. With men and women alike. On one occasion I was given a memorable bony finger-shake by a clean-cut, well-dressed fifty something year old man. He used the tip of his two fingers and almost a thumb to greet me, at arms length. It was a meek attempt at a handshake. To me it signified deception and sleight of hand.
The ladies seem to prefer the “I’m not going to look at you handshake,” combined with various marine inspired (scaly to fin-like) forms, that leave you feeling worse off than if you had not been “shaken” at all.
I can understand that some people prefer not to be forward or friendly and perhaps they’ve heard its trendy to be distant, but if you’re going to stretch out your arm, and touch somebody’s hand, do it right or excuse yourself (sorry my hands are wet or I’ve got a cold) and don’t do it at all. The touch is a sacred human act. We have thousands of nerve endings on our fingertips. The energy it creates is magnetic, so why not use it to your advance?
I’ve had my fair share of handshakes and although it might not get you the deal or the date, it will certainly make an impression. I’ve made friendships based on the openness of a handshake. That’s how I met Rojo, a part Jewish, part Colombian, part Cuban, businesswoman. She gave me a smile and a handshake that stood out from a hundred other people I was introduced to at a fashion event. We exchanged business cards and when she emailed me the following day, I remembered her.
She sponsored our magazine for an event and we ran an editorial about her spa/salon business. The business overflowed into friendship. We met for happy hour, went to the spa convention together and became fast friends. It was that simple. People refer to her as the Cuban red head, but to me she’s the girl with the handshake.
A great handshake exudes confidence and trust. It’s one of the oldest forms of surrender, known to have originated from battle when soldiers would lay down their arms. We’ve been shaking hands longer than we’ve been writing. It’s been depicted in paintings and sculptures from thousands of years ago. You’d thought we would have got it right by now.
I’m just as afraid of germs as the next person. I carry a travel size hand sanitizer in my purse, spray Lysol on almost everything and use my shirtsleeve to open doors in public restrooms. Yet when someone I’ve just been introduced to extends his or her hand to greet me, the least I could do is to respond. So I’ll make eye contact and offer my hand back and give a firm, yet gentle handshake, with web-to-web contact.
I’m not talking about a knuckle buster grip that leaves marks from your ring on your palm for days or an ego driven bone-crushing clasp. I’m talking about a sincere handshake, the one that shows our intrinsic need to connect. Better than any tennis bracelet, it’s every season’s ultimate accessory. Call me old-fashioned, but when it’s done right there’s nothing quite like it.
Even though I’m a writer, the power of the touch surpasses words. If you feel the need to carve a steely appearance of self-importance and take revenge on receiving a bad-handshake, by reciprocating with a limp touché of your own. Just remember, despite all the hype; bad manners are never in.