Hug or Handshake?

I have a good handshake. I should. I prepare. I practice. I seek feedback. I make improvements. I even exercise the right muscles. I have Captains of Crush grippers. Handshakes are something that I think about. I think about the rapidity and length of my reach. I think about the strength of my grip. I think about the forcefulness and duration of my shake. I think about the feel of my hand. Does it feel too rough? Does it feel too soft? I hope not. Is my hand too hot or too cold? Neither is good. Does my hand feel dry or clammy? Dry is preferable. Do I keep the person whose hand I am shaking at a distance or bring them in close? Am I shaking the hand of another man or a woman? Is the person bigger or smaller than me? Are they older or younger? Is their hand in any way damaged? Do I perceive the person to be more powerful? Are we meeting for the first time? Do I know them well? If it is someone I care about, the shake will last a little longer. I may even place my left hand on their right arm. All of these variables regulate the length of my reach, strength of my grip and forcefulness and duration of my handshake.

There are different types of handshakes. There is the hand hug, queen’s finger tips, dead fish, lobster, finger vice, and bone crusher. Since moving to Virginia, I have had handshakes in which my exchange partner lengthens his index finger as if attempting to take my pulse. Not sure what this is all about. But, it gives me a bit of startle each time it happens.

A handshake is a signal. It sends a message. I am here. My eyes are locked on your eyes. My shoulders are squared up to your shoulders. My grip is matching your grip. A handshake is a coordinated approach, squeeze, and shake. You do not approach your partner too quickly. You get close but not too close. You do not pull them into your personal space or in any particular direction. You meet them where they stand. Your clasp is vertically side-by-side. You calibrate the pressure of your grasp to their grasp. It should last about three to six seconds and conclude with a simultaneous release. A good handshake is about reciprocity.

A good handshake is important to me. If I believe I have had a bad performance, I will ask for another try. I have even advised my students on their handshakes. But, lately I have been thinking about hugs.

Hugs are different. Hugs are gifts. And, I want to start giving better hugs. So, I have been practicing on my son. When he comes home from school, I stop what I am doing, go to him, and wrap my arms around him. I lift him up, press his head against my chest and squeeze. I do my best to package him into my heart. These are good hugs. But, I can do better. I have done better. And, when I have done better, I do not just stop what I am doing. I stop everything. I stop my mind. I stop my worries. I stop my anxieties. I stop thinking about what I need to do next. There is no next. There is only now. I do not care what he has done. I do not care what he will do. All I care about is him right now. He is all that matters. I squeeze him. He squeezes me. Time slows. His smile grows. I am enough. He is enough. Everything is just right.

Good handshakes are about confidence. Good hugs are about wisdom. When I grow up, I want to give better hugs.

So, the next time I see you, hug or handshake? Which would you prefer?

Shawn Humphrey, the Blue Collar Professor (@blucollarprof)

Connect with me on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blucollarprof

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