I first met Parker in a casual manner last month when my friend Jonathon introduced him when we encountered him on the street. We chatted for a few minutes then Parker continued on his way to wherever he had been going. I didn’t form a strong opinion about the new acquaintance other than he seemed like a cheerful guy.
Yesterday, I ran into Parker while walking on the bike/hike trail near my neighborhood. Although we were walking in opposite directions, we paused to talk for awhile. After stopping, the first thing Parker did was to firmly shake my hand while looking me in the eye. This impressed me greatly because the last time anyone had done this was in pre-Covid days after the bank approved the mortgage on my house. Since then, my friends and acquaintances usually greeted or bid farewell with fist bumps. The practice with family and close friends remained the brief hug.
There’s an old saying regarding handshakes that says we recieve negative or positive emotional impressions through someone’s handshake technique. For example, following the quick visit on the trail with Parker, he once again shook my hand–doing so with a genuine smile. I soon reflected upon the short meeting and realized Parker had made a very positive impression with his good handshake technique.
There is the clammy, diffident handshake that is offputting to most people who are on its recieving end. There is the bone-crusher that implies the giver is overcompensating or trying too hard to appear more macho. Then there is the moderately firm handshake that coincides with both parties looking each other in the eye. This third style implies honesty, interest, and friendliness. The third style is also the most memorable type of handshake.
Then there is the matter of the fist bump. Jonathan introduced me to this practice in 2020 at the beginning of the Covid crisis. The fist bump is more casual and is usually practiced with friends or close acquaintances. Fist bumps are common among teammates in organized sports. Generally speaking, fist bumps are non-verbal gestures carried out by members of the same gender. The fist bump signals approval, inclusivity, and triumph. However, in many instances, the fist bump is used as a non-gender oriented handshake substitute because it is considered more hygienic or sanitary than handshaking and hugging.
Traditional social cues are important despite efforts to dispense of them in general. Regarding business or more formal settings, a fist bump is awkward, and considered poor form. Sealing a big business transaction with a fist bump would seem glib and less serious. Most of us probably would not take a fist bump exchange with our banker seriously. Even in a casual first-meeting scenario at a party, many people would interpret the fist bump as someone attempting to become too close too soon–it may even come off as creepy.
Personally, right now, I try to exercise better judgment when it comes to greeting people. Some informal instances involve the fist bump or forearm bump. With friends and family, I’ve resumed the tradition of hugging. Handshakes are used as the default practice whenever the other ways seem awkward. In my experience, the handshake is a barometer of future interactions with someone. I’ll be glad when the handshake resumes its place as good etiquette practice.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes best-selling author, Stephen King . “Hug and kiss whoever helped get you–financially, mentally, morally, emotionally–to this day. Parents, mentors, friends, teachers. If you’re too uptight to do that, at least do the old handshake thing, but I recommend a hug and a kiss. Don’t let the Sun go down without saying thank you to someone, and without admitting to yourself that absolutely no one gets this far alone.”