I was two cups of coffee in to the Sunday Denver Post when I noticed this picture of Bob Beauprez fist-bumping his son. At first I didn't realize it was his son; I was just momentarily mesmerized by the fist-bump. A fist-bump?
When I realized it was Beauprez's son, I was a bit mollified (though I will admit I think a hug makes more sense, but it's not my business and I mean that in all sincerity and without sarcasm because they are father and son and it's their fist-bump, and at least they communicate and that's always a good thing), but still pondering the fist-bump. When did this replace the handshake? And why?
A recent study in Germany touts the health benefits of the fist-bump. Yes, someone in Germany studied the benefits of the fist-bump versus the handshake versus the high five. The fist-bump won for least amount of germ transmittal. Researchers dipped a gloved hand into a vat of E-coli matter and then proceeded to shake, bump and high-five the participants. And you thought your job was bad.
I have asked a handful (pun intended) of adults why they fist-bump and most of the time the response is something along the lines of: Well, it seems to be the trend. AHA! This is not a good reason to forgo the time-honored handshake! By continuing to fist-bump you are only encouraging it. It's like feeding a whiney toddler a lollipop or getting a tattoo in Vegas because the rest of the wedding party did. Just because everyone is doing it does not make it a 'do!'
The handshake, at least in America, is still a 'do.' It's still considered the most professional yet personal form of greeting. When should you shake?
• When introducing yourself to anyone (including your parole officer)
• At the beginning and end of a job interview
• When you meet the president of just about anything
• When greeting a colleague or client you haven't seen in a significant amount of time
• When you've been introduced to someone by another friend or colleague
• When meeting your potential father-in-law (or parole officer)
• When acting as host or hostess to a business meeting or event
• When saying goodbye to a colleague, client, friend (or parole officer)
• When you need to indicate the end of an interaction or conversation and your impending exit
• Really any other time that seems obvious: when someone saves you from a careening bus,
when someone kills the mice infestation living under your stairs, when the guy in front of you tosses your 9 year-old the foul ball he just caught at the baseball game. You know when it feels right. Right? (In all of the above instances a hug is probably also warranted, especially in the mice instance.)
Wondering how to master the fine art of the handshake? It's easy:
• Make eye contact
• State your name (if necessary) while extending your right hand: Hi, I'm Debra Fine
• Lean slightly in, grasp the other person's hand firmly for a mere 2-3 seconds
That's it. Really! So, don't overthink it. And avoid the following:
• Dead Fish Hand: This limp, lifeless creature belongs in the grocery case, not in the handshake.
• Lady Fingers: The handshake involves the HAND, not just the fingers. Even Princess Kate does not daintily offer her royal fingers in that awkward way that makes it seem like you're hiding a microphone in your palm. And she's a princess.
• The "Make Mine a Double": No need to cover the successful handshake with your other hand. Don't ruin a good thing. The handshake is a singles match, not a doubles tourney. One and done.
• Be cognizant when greeting guests from other cultural backgrounds, as the rules may differ. If you are the guest, take your cues from the host to show your willingness to be flexible and respectful.
Handshakes are like parenting: Extend yourself. Be straightforward. Be firm. Smile even when you don't feel like it. Practice what your preach.
On that note, teaching children the fine art of the handshake is a gift. After all, we teach our dogs to "shake" not "fist-bump" - shouldn't we do the same for the little humans in our lives? Agree? Let's shake on it.