I read an fairly entertaining article today that coincided with a line of thought I'd had just hours before. The relevant part of that page is as follows:
Ah, the defacto male greeting. Yes, females use it too, but it's usually JUST a greeting if done by or to a female. The male handshake, however, is rife with subtlety and subtext, depending on point of contact, grip, pressure, length of duration, and the stature and status of the two parties involved.
This could really be an entire article unto itself, and probably one day will be. But for now, I'll touch on some of the more prominent components of a male-male handshake and their associated meanings:
- Hand Placement: Deep-set hand placement, where the webbing between the thumb and forefinger is set as close as possible to the same on the other male's hand, indicates a general respect for people. It shows that one's father showed them how to give a proper handshake. The further back the hand is set when the grip is closed, the less respect you apparently have for the person you are shaking hands with (and for most people in general).
- Pressure: Pressure equals confidence. The more pressure applied to a grip, the more confience the male is presuming to communicate they possess. Not enough pressure, and you are seen as weak. Too much pressure, and you are seen as overbearing and boorish, overcompensating for something. A firm handshake, where pressure is applied by both parties so as to create an equilibrium, indicates confidence on both sides.
I don't know whether it's just the people I interact with, or whether it's the area in which I live, but it seems that the importance or significance of a handshake has been completely lost on an entire generation of people. Most handshakes now are limp-wristed, two-finger versions that give the impression that it was a waste of the other person's effort, and that I should be honored that they even bothered.
Maybe it's old fashioned of me at the wise old age of 28, but when I meet a man who can't give a proper handshake, I write them off almost immediately. I'm not talking about those screwed-up handshakes where somehow you don't connect properly, I'm talking about the ones where you can see the other person couldn't have cared less and put zero effort into a simple show of respect. It says a lot about a person, their upbringing, and their attitude on life.
There are exceptions, I guess, mainly to do with other cultures. I've noticed that Indians and Latinos don't seem to put the same stock into it. I don't know if their cultures place the same significance into the gesture, or if it's even a part of their culture at all or simply something they learned in dealing with Americans. That said, any man who grew up in America should know and understand this simple gesture and what it says about him.
Anyway, I'd be interested to hear the opinions of other Slashdotters on this topic. Is it a dying gesture that shouldn't carry the weight I give it? Does it convey exactly what I think it does: a total lack of respect and effort on the part of younger people? You tell me.