Saturday, January 18, 2014


Is a handshake different for a man than it is for a woman? For me, it is. Not because I want it to be; it just is. If I were still working for corporate America and in a position to be shaking hands on a frequent basis, then maybe I wouldn't notice a male-female difference.

I don't remember much handshaking as a child or as a teenager. What little I did, I'm sure it was weak and awkward. Looking back, they should have taught us in school how to properly shake someone's hand, and why; though I'm sure my parents mentioned it somewhere along the way.

Interviewing for jobs as a twenty-one year old adult is when it became something that I needed to do. I'm sure that I hit-and-missed with the quality of it. If I walked into a building with confidence and greeted a person who looked like they were interested in talking to me, then the handshake went well. If not, it may have been loose and reduced to protocol.

Men seem to have ownership of the handshake. I notice my husband shaking hands with another man at least twice during the encounter - upon greeting and when saying good-bye; and sometimes in between. If I'm part of their conversation, most of the time, I have to initiate the handshake because the man seems unsure of whether to shake my hand or not. However, I won't limit this to a male thing. A lot of women who I am introduced to will not initiate the handshake either. Sometimes when I surprise someone (male or female) by holding out my hand to shake theirs, it ends up being a bit wimpy - soft and missing the whole palm to palm, web to web effect because the person is still surprised. But when it urns out to be a good, firm shake, I see the look on the person's man's face; he is impressed.

Handshaking among men has been around for centuries. It's as natural as wearing a tie, watching sports, leaving the lights on around the house, and dropping socks on the floor... generally speaking.

For women - not so... generally speaking.

When I meet a woman for the first time, usually, I shake her hand. The second meeting - I don't. Instead, it's immediate conversation.

Nice to see you again.

How are you?

Hi! I like your dress!


Anything that suggests familiarity... because we've already met before.

By the third visit, it could be a hug (if our second visit was chummy). Future meetings don't require any physical contact, though huggers will likely hug, depending on the occasion.

I wonder if women will ever shake hands as much as men do. Hmmm...

Another aspect of hand shaking is the growing fear of germs. I've seen at least three TV news stories admonishing us to "wash our hands!" because it's "cold and flu season!" And then they show examples of transferring those pesky little germs, like: touching door knobs, eating from the same snack bowls... and good ol' handshaking.

I'm not against handshaking, but it can be inconvenient at social functions; trying to remember to eat my hors d'oeuvres with my left hand, or a fork, and saving the right hand for handshaking.

And then there's my lotion. I really don't like to shake hands right after I've beautified my hands with lotion that hasn't completely absorbed into my skin.

Is the handshake on its way out? Many people abhor the socially expected ritual, and celebrities who feel the same are helping their cause by refusing to shake hands, in effect, leading the common folk to comfortably withhold their hands, too. There's even a web site named Stop Hand Shaking that posts other ways of greeting; like the fist bump, high fives, and nodding. They even sell "no hand shaking" lapel pins, which I assume is a major reason for the site.

(I laugh when I picture business people fist bumping.)

The world is forever changing.

So what do you think about handshaking, i.e. quality, male/female, etc?
And what about the germ factor?


Shelly said...

In this flu season, I'm kind of embarrassed to day hand shaking makes me cringe a little inside, although generally I don't object to it. I think it is a good way to greet people, and everyone at my gym fist bumps, which is kind of funny, too!

joeh said...

You can tell more about a person from the way he (she) shakes hands than you can through fist bump.

Plus people need to be careful, I once saw our President and Michele doing a fist bump, and the narrator said the President and his wife were sometimes into "fisting."

Mari said...

I agree that there is a difference between men and women when it comes to handshakes. I do cringe at church when we greet everyone, and you've been hearing coughing and sneezing... I can't really see the handshake going away though.

Linda Hensley said...

If I'm going into a business situation and a hand is offered, I shake it. The web between thumb and index finger should firmly touch, hands should squeeze enough to be felt but without crushing rings into bones, an up/down movement together, then let go and quit giving me your germs.

Other than that, no, I'm really not into it even though a handshake does tell a lot about a person. When someone's hand feels like a dead fish I think they aren't a very warm person. If they're crushing me, then they're power hungry idjits I don't want to work with. If they don't let go and keep patting my hand then I figure they're chauvinistic and patronizing.

If you repeat the gesture on departure it can tell you a lot about how the other person feels the meeting went. That's especially helpful after an interview. In a way, maybe getting all that info from a simple gesture is an excellent tradition we should keep?

Abby said...

I don't typically initiate a handshake, but if one is offered, I shake it. Firmly.

You got me thinking about differences with men and women, though. Like how women might shake on the first meeting, but never again, while men continue to shake even after they know each other. I realized it wouldn't even cross my mind to shake the hand of a woman I've already met!

I don't have a problem with the tradition. God forbid we should all stop touching each other.

Hilary said...

Offers, hand while stating how very much I love how your posts make me think.

I am not one who spends much time at all in the business world but I'm inclined to think that Linda's comments are spot-on. I do believe it can tell us a lot about the other person and how they feel about things.. and more importantly how they might feel about you.

As for Joe, his comment (as usual) made me laugh.

I think the handshake is here for another generation or two at least. And I suspect that the bump will go the way of the secret handshake. ;)

Barb said...

I rarely shake hands anymore. I merely nod and verbally greet if I don't know the person. If I do know the person, a handshake seems way too formal. My husband always shakes another man's hand when being introduced. I think there is a definite gender difference in this tradition. The handshake seems to denote something about honor and honestly between males. If a woman is working in a male dominated profession, perhaps she is expected to adopt this form of formal greeting.

Munir said...

I agree with you. There is a difference between a handshake with a man and a hand shake with a woman.
All my corporate life men have been more open when it came to hand shake. Every successful deal, every time I saved the company money and every time I went to work for an other department I was welcomed with a hand shake when the supervisor was a man, versus only half of the time when there was a lady.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should have this topic. I was just contemplating the handshakes of my husband and two oldest sons who no longer live with us. Each time they come to visit, they end with a warm handshake. It's heartwarming to see my hubby treat them like young 'men', and to see them maturing so quickly.
I, of course, go for the hug.
I will shake someone's hand when we're introduced for the first time, but after that, all my greetings are done with a smile. Maybe a hug.
As for the fist bump replacing the handshake. I hope it never happens.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should have this topic. I was just contemplating the handshakes of my husband and two oldest sons who no longer live with us. Each time they come to visit, they end with a warm handshake. It's heartwarming to see my hubby treat them like young 'men', and to see them maturing so quickly.
I, of course, go for the hug.
I will shake someone's hand when we're introduced for the first time, but after that, all my greetings are done with a smile. Maybe a hug.
As for the fist bump replacing the handshake. I hope it never happens.

ShadowRun300 said...

oops. sorry for the double posting. :)

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Geez, Anita. You always ask the best questions. I recall when I worked in the business field back in the dark ages. A woman offering her hand was not a usual event. Then, somewhere along the line of that climb, I began shaking hands. Often surprised others - especially the women. That carried into staying at home - and then meeting the roommates and dates of my sons. Always taught them to have a sturdy handshake. I recall my dad talking about a limp handshake telling a great deal about a man. "Shakes hands like a dead fish," he'd say.

So taught my sons differently. Often when I meet a new student in school, I will shake their hand. Especially because they don't expect it. Seems to put us in a different place than we may have been headed prior to it. Better place.

Rob-bear said...

Well, a handshake is a handy way to greet people. It's called "making contact," quite literally, which is what the point of meeting a person is — business or pleasure, male or female.

Of course, hugs are better; Bear hugs even better than that. But I suppose I'm biased in that regard.

Anyhow, blessings and Bear hugs, Anita!

Ms. CrankyPants said...

It's embarrassing to admit this, but as I get older, I'm more aware of germs. Shaking hands seems a bit gross, especially when you spend as much time as I do in the bathroom (I have MS and am in there practically every other minute). You see a surprising number of people either not washing or doing a crappy (HA!) job.

myletterstoemily said...

Oh man :),

Have you hit a sore spot with me on this!
I like shaking hands with men and women
. . . except the men who crush my hand
with a ring on my finger.

I asked my mother in law what to do when
a man crushes my hand. She said, "You
say, 'OW, that hurt!'"

I have now done that at least five times.

Hilary said...

The germ factor has definitely made me think twice about shaking hands, but a confident handshake was something I was taught growing up. I agree with the assessment that there is a difference between a man and a woman's handshake. My experience is that a man will have a strong, firm, full engaged hand clasp and shake. A woman usually grips finger tips, not the entire hand. It's like a dead fish handshake -- the way you'd pick up a deadfish in a few fingers. I loathe that kind of shake and would rather forgo the whole thing, but you can't know until you engage. If a woman has a firm handshake, a man will be surprised. A girlfriend of mine had a strong shake and after she met my brother for the first time, she was forever dubbed "Kung Fu Grip". javascript:void(0)

Mage said...

Not me. Now that I have arthur-itis in both hands, it hurts to shake hands.

Rebecca S. said...

Honestly, I haven't given the subject much thought before. I shake hands sometimes, and sometimes I don't. I like a good, firm handshake, though. A wimpy one seems to set me off the person a bit...wonder why?
My husband is a big one for shaking hands. A lot of our friends are into hugging, though. Even the men. But then, we're all hippies out here. LOL!

Stephanie said...

What amazes me about the handshake is how fast we women go from just a shake to a hug!

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I shake hands because germs are everywhere, but if I have to eat, I'm off to wash my hands.

Some men seem to give a firmer/harder handshake than women.

I like to hug.

I hug, too, after I'm get to know a person better.

Linda said...

I am more a hugger than a "handshaker". :) I think that men's handshakes do differ from women's. My handshake is firm, but not rough.

Buckeroomama said...

I don't shake hands as much now that I've left the corporate world, but one of my pet peeves is limp handshakes --especially from men. Why do some men think they cannot give a lady a 'proper' handshake, but instead just grab hold of a few fingers and give them a cursory shake, like they're afraid a proper handshake would crush the bones of the lady's hand?

Greeting people by way of fist bumps would be cool, wouldn't it? ;p

betty-NZ said...

I try to shake hands with people I just met, otherwise, I feel like there's no real connection (for a lack of a better explanation). It's an emotional thing, is some way.

yonca said...

It seems that some people love to be touchy-feely with others, and others who can't stand the thought of a stranger touching them.I do shake hands I don't know how many times in a day, It gives a good start, since I work as a saleswoman :)
There is always a senitazer on my desk at work. Also a handcream :)
Aaaa ..also a nail polish but I know it is off the topic:))

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

An interesting post that I enjoyed reading.

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

fsmum said...

The only time I shake hands is on the odd occasion when I attend church. The priest does a 'sign of peace' where everyone turns to each other and shakes hands. I sometimes cringe when I see someone coughing or sneezing into their hand and then a while later, they are giving me ths sign of peace handshake. yuk! When the swine flu scare abounded a few years ago, the church stopped the handshake thing for a while but it has since been reinstated. The only other time I'd do a handshake would be at an interview.

Bryan Jones said...

The handshakes I find irritating are with some men who seem to think it's macho to crush your fingers, presumably as a symbol of their brute strength.

Mage said...

Knock, knock. You stir us all up then don't post for two weeks. It's time for a new one. :)

Happy Valentines day.

Anita said...

You're right Mage. I'll get on it! :)

Thanks for thinking of me. Happy Valentine's Day to you and to all my friends in blog land. xoxo