What’s in a Handshake?



All over the globe, people greet each other in different ways. This is brought about by different cultures. Even the primitives of yesterdays down to the present tribal groups use greetings to show respect and acknowledgement of meeting one another.


The primitives show their hands as a gesture that they come in peace. A roman salute during the time of Julius Caesar is done with the right hand clenched in a fist and sharply drawn to the chest. Grasping each other’s forearm by the hand is also practiced then. In the western world, youngsters greet each other with a high five (at times with both hands). Soldiers greet their superiors with a snappy salute. The typical handshake among the general public is done with each other’s palms interlocking.


If you are traveling to different places, it is still best to check first what the local custom is with regards to the proper greeting procedure. It is better to do it correctly than to be sorry after doing it. There’s a saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Proper greeting or handshake best describes this expression.


To know the right greeting procedure, ask around the local circle. Your good intention might be interpreted as an insult and you know what follows thereafter, especially in places where you’re a visitor. This becomes more important if you’re a first timer to a particular country wherein you’re not familiar with the cultures.


There are incidences wherein a handshake accompanied by another gesture is interpreted in more ways than one. Take for example, a typical handshake done by some politicians. A common handshake accompanied by a grasp by the left hand to the right hand or to the right shoulder of the other person may have different meanings to some people. Some interpret it as being overly comfortable with the other person when in fact the politician hardly knows the person. Between close friends, this may be proper. But between two individuals who hardly know each other, this may mean otherwise.


The lesson here is to be reserved in your gesture. What is intended to be good might not be interpreted as such.


In the event that there is confusion on how the proper gesture in a locality is administered, it may be safer to throw a sincere smile instead of a handshake. Since a handshake is considered a type of body language, so is a smile. A smile almost always never fails in any culture around the world.


Local folks who extend their hands or greet first may also give you an idea of the way a greeting is administered in a certain place. Duplicating what they do or simply returning the favor can be safely assumed to be the proper way a greeting should be done in that place.


Some athletes who have strong hands are cautious in shaking hands because they fear hurting other people’s hands. As for those whose livelihood is dependent on their hands, like surgeons, dentists, and musicians, they are likewise cautious in shaking other people’s hands. This time it’s their hands they want to protect.


So, what’s in a handshake? It may be just a casual greeting but it may also mean a lot.