The handshake of the host affects the taste of the roast - Benjamin Franklin
Have you ever wondered why people shake hands?
The handshake dates back to the 5th century B.C. in Greece. It was a symbol of peace, showing that neither person was carrying a weapon. During the Roman era, the handshake was actually more of an arm grab. It involved grabbing each other’s forearms to check that neither man had a knife hidden up his sleeve. Some say that the shaking gesture of the handshake started in Medieval Europe. Knights would shake the hand of others in an attempt to shake loose any hidden weapons.
Back in the 80s, I wasn’t carrying any hidden weapons, just mile high hair, but I was starting my career in broadcasting.
I was learning how I was expected and supposed to act in this new professional world. I noticed everything and tried to copy anyone who looked like a power player (that was a thing in the 1980’s).
I took note that when I went into a business meeting, the person we were meeting would often shake the hands of the men in the room but only nod or smile at the women.
Then, during the meeting they would talk directly to the man at the table and only smile when I made a point. They assumed that the man was always in charge and I was a secretary, or tag along or coffee getter.
During one meeting in particular, it dawned on me. I realized the handshake or greeting I would receive before the meeting was equal to the treatment I would receive during the meeting.
I decided to do an experiment. When I went to meetings, I would immediately extend my hand to the person we were meeting with and wait for them to shake it.
In the beginning this was a very awkward situation as I would usually do business with mostly man. Back in the 80’s they referred to me as 'the little girl who wrote copy.' I was in my late 20’s.
Sometimes I would be left standing in the lobby with my hand held out while they passed by me. Most times, when they saw my hand extended, they were not sure what to do. But rather than be impolite they would take it, very limply and give it a shake.
Al Capone was once quoted saying, “You accomplish more with a smile, a handshake, and a gun than you do with just a smile and a handshake.”
Well, I didn’t know how to use a gun in the 80’s but I made it a point to develop a good hearty handshake.
When I met with women and extended my hand to them most didn’t know what to do. Remember, we came from an era of all girl Catholic schools where we bowed and genuflected.
Shaking hands was something two men did. A private, “Oh so you’re the one in power,” secret handshake kind of thing.
I absolutely remember the first time a woman put her hand out to me. I was in a meeting with people from CBC TV. This lady came in the boardroom and without a thought, pushed her hand in front of me. I am sure my return shake was like a dead fish. But it stuck with me.
I quickly realized as a young businessperson that the handshake seals the deal. It’s the promise. The agreement. It’s just as good as your word.
How many times have you heard the contract was made with a gentleman handshake? It is how you finalize the deal.
I quickly learned how to give and receive a firm handshake.
When someone extends their hand to me, I grab it and give it a good firm shake while looking them in the eye and smiling.
After the pandemic, when the world returns to whatever the new normal is going to be, I do hope hand shaking returns.
I would hate to see a world where people were afraid to touch each other, to seal the deal, to reach out.
Even if it is just a fist bump while we get used to germs again. I am looking forward to a post pandemic world where we can touch each other. Where we can shake hands and hold hands.
As soon as we throw away the masks and rubber gloves, let’s go back to being human and reach out to one another.
As a matter of fact, let’s shake on it!