My friend Molly recently told me about her son’s first day at jiu jitsu and she was, in a word, thrilled. “Griffin tried to fist bump the instructor and he said, ‘Oh, no, Griffin, we shake hands in jiu jitsu’. I was so happy! He’s learning jiu jitsu and proper manners all at the same time! He’s even dropping a ‘yes ma’am’ now and then. I should have done this years ago.” she said.
If only everyone learned the appropriate way to shake hands – and at the age of four, no less! The world would be such a lovely place. When the handshake goes wrong, it is such an uncomfortable moment that it becomes almost impossible to recover. The rest of the interaction is off-balance and then – GOD – you have to figure out how to disengage! Do you now try to handshake “goodbye” after you initially proffered a hug or fist bump or air kiss?
A recent article by Drake Baer offers some great tips and hilariously awkward clips of handshakes gone awry; but my rule of thumb, excuse the pun, is to go in for the handshake FIRST. That way, you and your small talk partner know immediately how to greet each other.
As soon as I see a person I need or want to greet, I immediately stick out my hand, make eye contact, re-introduce myself if necessary and say something like: “Joe, I’m Debra Fine. We met at the Rotary dinner last month. It’s wonderful to see you.” Now Joe is at ease because he knows who I am and he knows how to engage with me. I’ve done both of us a small talk favor.
I’ve been asked about reaching out to others with a left-hand-to-left-hand greeting. Unless you are holding a screaming infant, are missing an arm, or have a hook hand, don’t do this. This is worse than the fist bump. People don’t know if you are trying to say hello or invite them on a stroll or slip them a $20. The handshake, hands down, is professional, polite, and polished.
Got it? Go ahead and give yourself a high-five