Shake Like a Man

Shake Like a Man

As we’re slowly but surely passing up the restrictions of the Pandemic, it’s time to be reminded about the manly art of handshaking. A fist bump is a poor excuse for a firm handshake.


“When you give a man a handshake, make sure it’s firm because it shows you’re a man.”

-John Groves

When I was a young teenager, Tubby and Agnes King moved to Dry Creek and joined our church. I soon learned a valuable lesson about Tubby. He had a vise-like handshake and would hurt your hand if you didn’t get a good grip.

I’d been taught how to shake hands like a man earlier in life. It’s a proactive move where you ensure you get the webbed area between your thumb and forefinger right against the same part of the shakee, or fellow shaker’s hand. If you do this, you’ll get a firm grip and guys like Tubby can’t squeeze your fingers like wringing a wet dishrag.

I don’t think Tubby King meant to hurt other men with his handshake. He was a fine man, but his handshake brought tears to a generation of Dry Creek men and boys.

His handshake was hurtful only if you didn’t know how to shake like a man. It’s a learned habit:

Extend your right hand in a friendly forceful manner and give a firm handshake. It’s not a contest of the tightest grip, but men in the Louisiana Pineywoods (and much of the world) are judged by their handshake.

There’s no place for a dead fish handshake. Just as a firm shake gives a positive impression, a limp handshake gives the opposite impression. There’s no room in our culture for wimps or wimpy handshakes.

That handshake doesn’t have to last long. Neither does it need to be vertical. I’ve shaken hands with some fellows whom I thought were going to wrench my elbow out of socket shaking up and down.

But there is a part of a man’s handshake that doesn’t just involve the right hand but is equally impressive. In my world travels, I’ve been introduced to several cultural variations on handshakes. On the African Continent, it’s common to place your left hand on your right forearm during the handshake. It shows that the shaker isn’t holding a weapon behind his back with the free hand.

I learned another handshake variation in Indonesia in the aftermath of the terrible 2004 Tsunami. I was part of a Louisiana medical team that ministered to the refugees from this century’s worst natural disaster. The Indonesian Sumatrans would shake my hand while patting their heart with their left hand. The hand to the chest was explained as their way of adding, “I am connected to your heart.” Coming from the deeply Muslim people of Aceh, I always took this symbolic gesture literally to heart.

Worldwide, the handshake is a symbolic feature of introduction and connection.

So, shake like a man. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to have a firm handshake. It’s just a matter of practice and technique.

It’s part of a good first impression. It can open doors to strong friendships, jobs, open doors, and opportunities of a lifetime.

So, shake like a man.

“A gentleman is always ready to offer a hearty handshake.”

How to be a Gentleman by John Bridges







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