What Lies in a Handshake

Monday Memoir BadgeMy father believed in the power of first impressions.  He accepted, that as he appraised someone for the first time, so they would similarly judge him.

When I meet someone for the first time my father’s voice reminds me, “Always make eye contact, smile, dress smart and shake hands with firm enthusiasm.”

A weak handshake was a symptom of insecurity and feebleness that would almost certainly be manifest in other aspects of a person’s personality, according to my father.  While I may not entirely agree with his view, I am put off by cold, weak or limp handshakes.

A two-handed handshake meant that person was seeking the upper hand; their hand grasping yours their other hand holding your arm.  My father’s take on the two-handed shake was that it was a gesture of control rather than comradeship, it was not good etiquette.   It followed that a weak handshake indicated a neuroticism and less confident personality.

I was fourteen years old when he and I practised shaking hands.  We did the limp-wrist, the wet fish (sweaty palms and a weak hand shake), the knuckle-crusher and the two-handed nice-to-meet-you-I’ve-got-you-under-control version and of course the firm hand shake.

When the day came I made eye contact, smiled and shook hands with everyone and made my father proud when people remarked how respectful, grown up and well-mannered I was.  My father, unwittingly, taught me that I could hide strong emotions and a quivering heart with my firm handshake.  He said it was important that I knew how to behave towards others who were grieving at … my  mother’s funeral.

I am circumspect in my judgements at first meetings.  Firm handshake notwithstanding, I am waiting for others to provide evidence of their personality because I understand what can be harboured in our hearts while we present ourselves as respectful, polite and open.

Perhaps it is disingenuous to mask those feelings and hope for a good first impression.  I prefer to think we earn the right to know what others think of us as we earn the right to understand their hearts.

Different times, different psychology.

10 thoughts on “What Lies in a Handshake

  1. Pingback: What Lies in a Handshake | Writing on the Pages of Life

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