A while ago I bought a book that is designed to improve several aspects of a person’s life. Some of the areas need to be studied well before they can be used because getting them wrong will have serious – sometimes irreversible, consequences. For example:
Handle brake failure (section 157)
Escape from a burning building (540)
Dye hair with coffee (331)
Get custody of your pet in a divorce (644)
Other things in this volume I thought I already knew everything about but after reading one section I was glad that I was aware of the long-reaching implications of the action. I will revert to my favourite television detective’s phrase at this point: “Here’s what happened ...” (Adrian Monk c.2009) It was a sunny day ... nah! Scratch that. The weather is unimportant, this is about meeting and greeting people. This is something we do all the time. The book goes through several points about how to shake hands (section 214). The main tip is a “two handed handshake is not for first meetings. It is a sign of real affection, and you should reserve it for friends and intimates.” Good advice, I will bear that in mind.
What happened to me was that I have become cautious about greeting certain people I meet at church as I have been reading their increasingly reserved body language for several weeks, however, there I was in a situation where handshakes were being passed around like tissues at a funeral. It’s my fault, I forgot my caution.
Anyway, I didn’t go in for the affectionate double-handed handshake, I went for the normal I-am-not-dangerous-or-armed handshake. What I received was like picking up a piece of raw meat. It was cold, weak and limp. It was dramatically different to the firm but gentle squeeze I had previously received all the preceding weeks. My suspicions were confirmed as the greeter shifted nervously and dropped my hand too quickly to be polite.
In response to my “How are you?” attempt to ascertain the reason for the change in the warmth of the contact there was an uncomfortable shifting of the eyes and gazing over my shoulder accompanied by nervous laughter and some off the shelf cliché about “I’m all right, it’s the others I worry about.”
At this point I had an overwhelming desire to share point 7 from the book with this man. It says, “Make eye contact when shaking hands. This shows sincerity and honesty. If you avoid eye contact you may be perceived as lying, inferior or possible nervous.” He definitely scored at least a negative 2 out of 3 in this test. The previous 6 steps would also be marked as ‘fail’, because as the handshake today shows a gauge of mood, trust, and confidence I would say he had no positive vibes towards that contact with me today.
I felt like a gate-crasher at a party where my invitation had been withdrawn.