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Monday, March 22, 2010

The Handshake

I will admit that I understand the concept of eye contact and why it is important. That being said I will now tell you that I have no clue, none what so ever, on why the handshake ritual is so important within our society.

"A man walks into a bar..." No, this isn't one of those tasteless jokes, "A man walks into a bar, sees a friend he hasn't seen in a while, and greets him with a handshake." See, that wasn't a joke (more like a horror story in my eyes!) Why though would he shake hands? I don't get it.

It's not that I just don't understand the concept, but I'm also afraid of the handshake. Each person's right hand is different and has a different texture and feel. As someone extends their arm to me I panic inside. "What is it going to feel like?" and "Will it be sweaty?" are two questions that instantly plop into my mind. I then start to think about what to do after. If I instantly and rapidly brush my hand against my pants will they take that in offense?

Avoiding a handshake is a stressful and difficult undertaking. The problem is if someone extends their right hand (oh, why is it the right hand? A left handshake is considered rude unless the right hand is injured) I can't simply avoid it. To not shake hands when one party has initiated the ritual is considered to be the ultimate insult. Why does this handshake have so much power?

One website regarding handshake protocol says that the handshake is the most important part of any meeting as the first impression lasts the longest and that the handshake is the basis of the first impression. Really? Do people really judge a person on their handshake? To me this seems to shallow.

According to wikipedia (the world's trusted source of information. Notice I did not say 'most trusted' or 'least trusted'. Use your own discretion on what to call it) the handshake may date back to the 5th BC century. If that's so shouldn't we as a society have moved on?

Another tip on handshakes says that a handshake should be firm, but not too strong, yet not weak as to avoid showing a sign of weakness. Also, depending on the person's home country, one must tailor their handshake. Central Europe has a light handshake, whereas American executive business is a strong, firm handshake. But not too firm to show that you see yourself in a higher esteem than the person you are meeting. Confused? I will admit I'm not as to be confused one must at least grasp the concept and I see this in the same understanding of trying to read a paper with size 1 font from 10 miles away.

I can read about the handshake, another person can tell me about it, but the importance still makes no sense. Shouldn't a person be remembered for their words and deeds and not of a 1 second event? I've known that actions speak louder than words, but weren't those actions supposed to be accomplishments?

There's been one time in my life I refused a handshake and the person got very vocal about it. I've learned that rejecting a handshake is nothing short of a declaration of war. The path of least resistance tells me that I must shake hands, but I have done, and will continue to do it reluctantly.

To close, a handshake to me is very much like a roller coaster. When I see a person start to reach out their right hand the feeling is the same as when a roller coaster is going up a steep incline. The anxiety builds as the cars near the acme. "What's it going to feel like?" is constantly asked and just as one can't get off the roller coaster at that point I can't avoid the roller coaster. Yes, a handshake is very much like a roller coaster, and I HATE roller coasters!

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