A greeting with acknowledgment and respect

You may quote me, “A handshake is a greeting with acknowledgement and respect”.

When I was VERY young, I was introduced to my Grandfather’s brothers and sisters that had come over from Italy for a visit. As they sat on the couch and chairs in his house, my said who they where and I politely said ‘Hi’.

The very next day, Grandpa showed up at my parents house, riding the bus from the other side of town which required three transfers. He calmly let me know that I had not been respectful to the people I was being introduced to by not shaking their hand. He spent the afternoon going over and over what was a proper handshake.

How did he have this knowledge? When he came to the states, he started a produce delivery company. He felt the reason he was successful was because he was honest and respectable. He purchased produce from suppliers and farms and delivered to companies all over town. Usually on a handshake agreement. From the handshake, he knew pretty quickly who wasn’t planning on paying him and who respected his services.

This bit of my past came up recently when I was reading Guy Kawasaki’s new book Enchantment. The book is a walk through being trustworthy and respectable, both for yourself and your brand. Some good lessons in the book worth getting the highlighter out so you can remember them later. One item of note was his mention of what makes George Clooney’s smile stand out. In short, it is real, not an act, as you can see the smile throughout his whole face not just a upturn of his lip corners.

Back to the handshake:

It is a ‘handshake’, not a finger shake. Both sexes can shake hands, there is no need to ever give someone your fingers as a handshake.

When being introduced to someone, step to them, reach out and take their hand firmly. Firmly does not equal squeeze, there are no extra points to breaking their hand. Tighten your forearm just a bit but don’t lock it or your elbow. Initially, start slowly up so both parties move together, we don’t want to twist their wrist. Two up/down is casual, three is a bit more formal.

Tuning the stepping forward a bit, do not enter their circle of comfort. The circle is real, don’t abuse their space. Depending on the nationality, you may wish to bow your upper body just a bit as you start the hand connection. Understand some people have a phobia about touching, be respectful, but you will know this before you reach out your hand from seeing if they back off from people. Germ concern is not a phobia, it’s a real concern for most people. That is not a reason to not shake hands though. I completely understand that hand t0 hand touching can pass germs. I have several good friends that are professional speakers where if they caught a cold they may not be able to perform their expected duties. They mention this fact and use a bit of hand sanitizer after shaking hands… but they still shake hands.

There was an attempt a few years ago to replace the handshake with a knuckle bump. No matter the press around it, that action is still the equivalent of giving a high five slap and does not represent a moment of acknowledgment or respect.

Personally, I had a hard time remembering a room of people’s names when moving quickly through a crowd. So, I use the handshake moment to use their name in my greeting.

A few additions to the handshake. To be more sincere with your greeting, you may reach out with your left hand and lightly grip their forearm or just above their elbow with your left hand. Politicians are abusing this as a way to pull a person closer so you may want to be aware of your crowd and analyze if it will be taken as honest or as being over the top.

Holding their shaking hand with your left hand to cup their hand between your two hands. This is more of a emotional connection type of handshake. While being completely acceptable in my ministry days, it generally causes people to pay more attention to the handshake than the greeting.

A handshake, like Clooney’s smile, is more than a connection of hands. Smile, look the person in the eye and show them the respect you would like others to give you. Take the time to acknowledge the person, you will be remembered for making the effort.


Leave a Reply