10 January 2011

Gone By The Wayside: The Handshake

Perhaps the most rudimentary staple of social interaction, the handshake, dates back as early as the 5th century B.C. in Greece. Likely originating as a gesture of peace (a hand engaged in a handshake can bare no weapon), it is speculated that the handshake was popularised in the 16th century by Sir Walter Raleigh in service to the British Court. The handshake is crucial in the social realms as a means of greeting, yet it appears at risk of falling out of use by the youngest generation. It is important to shake hands upon greeting colleagues, friends, or new acquaintances, and to do it properly. Below are some tips.

Remember to shake firmly, but do not attempt to dominate or crush your associate.

A handshake should be done with a bare hand, so gloves should be removed first.

It is unacceptable to refuse a handshake unless hindered by injury.

Keep eye contact during the handshake.

Keep the time of contact and number of shakes at a reasonable amount; don't linger too long and don't pull back straight away.

When the handshake is between a superior and his subordinate or across the ranks of social hierarchy, the superior should be the one to initiate the handshake.

Be aware of local customs; when abroad know how their customs regarding the handshake differ from our own.

Don't be afraid to shake hands when greeting close friends; the handshake doesn't have to be only for formal occasions.


  1. I believe the uncouth fist bump has crept in where hand shakes used to dominate. I ,for one, am not a fan of the bump. I guess you can look at the fist as the complete opposite of the peaceful, open, and unarmed hand.

  2. The 'fist bump' is the sort of gesture I imagine is reserved for chimpanzees in the jungle. It is not for civilised human beings in the West. When I see an approaching bump, I want to slice it off with my rapier.

  3. Too true, gentlemen. Hear, hear! It is worth noting, mind you, that while it is inappropriate to refuse a handshake there is no etiquette dictating that one must not decline a 'fist bump'. I, for one, certainly refuse to engage in such absurdities. Cheers!



Related Posts with Thumbnails