The elegant Lily Lemontree has been on top form of late, and if you are not among her followers already, I hasten you there. Of her recent posts, one on shaking hands caught my attention in particular. Anyone with any doubts about the whys and wherefores of this essential practice should look in with alacrity. I thought I’d add my two penn’orth on the subject, for the first one ever knows of a man is his handshake, and its importance cannot therefore be overlooked.
There are many good reasons to shake hands. First and foremost, the handshake behoves each participant to make eye contact, and a failure in this regard arouses all manner of suspicions about character. A man who cannot look another in the eye betrays a want of something – a mere lack of confidence may be misconstrued as shiftiness – and the other shaker would be judicious in proceeding with caution.
Second, the handshake establishes an equality between men, for if done properly each shaker will respect the other as well met. If not done properly, however, a superior shaker will immediately assume superiority over the man who proffers a limp wrist, or too soft a squeeze. The hierarchy may not be justified in fact, but how is the man who puts forward a sock in a cup for a handshake supposed to recover his status? First impressions are lasting impressions, and we should do well to remember that beginning on the wrong foot – or wrong hand – will set us back considerably.
The handshake is the very standard of sportsmanship. After fierce competition, the declaration of no personal animus ensures that the game continues to be played in the right spirit.
Finally, there is the horror, and the offence, of the absence of a handshake. Nothing could be more disturbing than a failure to shake on first meeting. I can think of no good reason for such a failure, and please spare me your hygienic scruples. What are we to make of such a man? Since he makes nothing of himself, I suggest we also make nothing of him.
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