Here's Part II of a little catalog of guidelines for handshake greetings in the USA. Read Part I.
- Lock hands
- Lock hands with your partner, with the web connecting your thumb and index finger meeting theirs. Close your fingers around the bottom edge of your partner's palm. Grasping just their fingers, or offering just your own fingers, can feel like a put-down. Preventing web-web contact by keeping your thumb in your palm is called a "dead fish handshake." It's decidedly offensive.
- Pump once or twice
- Pump up and down once or twice, for at most two or three seconds. Pumping more than twice risks appearing foolish, over-eager, or obsequious.
- Know when not to hold on
- Holding your partner's hand after the pumps are finished, usually while talking, can be affectionate and warm, if you know the person well. It can also be a dominance tactic. Use with extreme care.
- Use firm pressure
- Hold your partner's hand with firm pressure, but not painfully so. Strong people must take care. Too little pressure communicates weakness or timidity.
- Withhold comment
- If your partner uses an extremely strong or weak grip, or has cold or sweaty hands, or doesn't want to shake hands, or breaks any of the "rules," let it pass. There might be a good reason: arthritis, poison ivy, or goodness knows what.
- Don't wipe your hand
- Wiping your hand Accompanying
touch is riskybefore or after shaking hands can offend. Even if you have good reason, such as sweaty palms or wet hands, some might feel offense.
- Accompanying touch is risky
- The two-handed handshake, or touching your partner's right arm with your left hand during the handshake, can be seen as affectionate if you know each other well. Otherwise, it can be a dominance gesture, which might offend.
- Smile, but not too much
- A nice smile is usually welcome, but a broad, long-lived grin can seem ingratiating or foolish unless you know each other well.
- Take deformities and disabilities in stride
- If your partner can't use his or her right hand, or if it is missing or deformed, the left hand will do just as well. If you know in advance that the right hand is unavailable, and the left is, use your left. If your right hand is already extended, use it and make the best of it. If neither of your partner's hands is available, a warm touch might be welcome. Use your judgment: a warm smile is nearly always safe.
- If your right hand is unavailable
- If you can't use your right hand, offer your left. Offering early might save your partner some embarrassment, but that's up to you. If neither of your hands is available, a warm smile and a nod will do nicely.
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 26: Unintended Condescension: II
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