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.

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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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