Hand check. How’s your handshake?

Since I’m writing in a world where the majority of
readers are “tech savvy” it might be easy to think I’m talking about the
“handshake” between computers. You know the static filled bong, bong that
greets the dial up connection. That’s actually far from the case. I’m talking
about the good old fashioned “stick out your hand, look you straight in the
eye, firm grip, ‘damn glad to meet you’ handshake.“

The hand shake started a long time before written history so
its explanation is pretty much a crap shoot. Accepted wisdom is that it began
as a sign of “Look Sir Bob, I don’t have a weapon.” followed by Sir Bob’s,
“Huzzah! Sir Vernon, I’m not packin’ either.” However it started, whether
performed in a social or professional setting, it has evolved into a vital form
of face to face communication as well as establishing that all important
first impression.

I went to school with my son a few weeks back for
orientation and had a chance to meet quite a few young men and women who, when
I presented my hand, either stared at it like a dog looking at a ceiling fan or
placed what could easily have been mistaken for a recently deceased snake or a
chilled summer sausage in to my waiting palm.

I’ve noticed that many of our kids today have no concept of
the handshake and how much it tells someone about you. I realize this is a
broad statement. I’m sure there are parents out there who have taken the time
to teach they’re kid the importance of that first handshake, though I haven’t
met a lot of those kids. I can’t tell, has it slipped from our minds that it
might be a good idea to equip our kids with this most basic of social abilities
or is it just not important with so many other things to address in the all
too brief time that we can make an impact on our children. By the way, it
hasn’t gone unnoticed by many people that there is a fair share of
adults who could stand a refresher course in the art of the “grip and grin.”

Here’s the deal, take a minute to do the quick “hand check”
with your kids or your friends. Is the palm presented quickly and without
hesitation? Is the grip firm, but not so firm as to crush digits? Is there sincere eye
contact, not the quick glance in the general direction of the face or what lies
beyond the person’s head? If it all checks out, no need for further discussion, go about
your business. If not, take a few minutes. Encourage your handshake pupil to
not hesitate to extend a hand, look the recipient of the “shake” in the eye and
smile, firmly grip the hand, making sure to lock thumbs and shake (bonus sincerity points
for adding the 2nd hand to make the “hand sandwich”, but let’s take it
slow). Please don’t shake so hard the shoulder becomes dislodged from its
socket, just a couple of firm pumps. Gentlemen, this
includes ladies. Ladies, this includes you! Shaking hands is for everybody; unless of course you want to
curtsy. Sirs Bob and Vernon would probably dig it, but let’s save that for the odd visit with the Queen.


Today there are just too many ways of communicating without
ever meeting a person face to face. Let’s make sure when we get the opportunity
to be sure not to present each other with a lovely halibut of a handshake.


  1. Boy, Phil, you nailed it. Most of the business people I meet at networking events understand the value of a handshake. Kids? Not so much.

    A limp handshake says, ‘no confidence’. Who wants to trust your livelihood to someone like that? And it ain’t that easy to get a job with that kind of handshake either.

    Bravo and a point well spoken!

  2. Teresa Molter says

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been a high school teacher for 13 years. I have recently resigned to start my own business helping teens. I have designed a teen leadership/success curriculum where the first session is dedicated to first impressions and posture. Kids can gain so much more confidence by realizing how important a first impression is ~ starting with a handshake!!