close the gate

 

Body language

There was a Russian woman who married an American man. They moved to the states and, though she managed to communicate with her husband, the poor woman knew very little English.

One day while grocery shopping she wanted to buy some chicken legs. There were none on the cooler shelves so she went to the butcher behind the counter. She clucked like a chicken and then lifted her dress slightly and pointed to her legs. The butcher understood perfectly and produced some chicken legs for her.

On the next trip to the same market she wanted chicken breasts. She went to the butcher's counter, clucked again and then awkwardly gestured toward her breasts. Again, he understood and brought out a tray of breasts for her to select from.

The next week she couldn't find the sausages. Not knowing how to communicate such a thing she brought her husband to the market. They went up to the butcher's counter and ...*** (punch line at the end).

I am a touchy person. I like to hug. I even like to shake hands when I meet someone. Handshaking is found in picture carvings as far back as the fourth century B.C. It is thought to have originated as a sign of peace to show that you didn't hold any weapons. Thankfully, shaking hands is no longer considered a “male” thing because it is my greeting of choice.

I love when movies have psychics who get these awesome visions in their heads when they shake someone's hand or sometimes even brush up against them. I think maybe that is what I'm looking for when I reach out for a handshake, touch a forearm or shoulder. I keep waiting for the visions to pop up on the backsides of my eyeballs for just me to see, but it has yet to happen.

Even though the pictures don't come, I still think a good handshake can give me an insight into someone's personality. I think if people are going to shake hands they should put some meaning into it. A weak handshake can signal a lack or authority or poor self-esteem.

This reminds me ... there was a gal back in one of my college classes who hated shaking hands. She decided that she was going to play offense instead of defense in any handshake situation. Extend your hand to her and she would take her left hand, grab hold of your right and then casually turn her way to stand beside you and your handshake has now turned into a hand-holding situation. You want to see some panicked expressions!  And she would hang on and on and on! Guys or gals, it didn't matter to her. And she did it so smoothly! Just like it was the most natural thing in the world!

I witnessed some very, very awkward situations with her solution and a few near fights, but you can bet the person who stuck out their hand for a handshake greeting was going to think twice before doing it again. It made for some interesting memories, that's for sure. I think most thought she was downright nuts! I wonder if she ever thinks back on those days! If she's married, it is probably how she met her spouse. If she's divorced, same reason. It made for some hilarious situations back then and is still funny now. Of course, I'm just thankful I never tried to shake hands with her.

It always surprises me when I shake hands with someone who I would think would have the handshake thing down pat: Firm. Confident. Strong. Like a pastor. Or a fireman. Or a policeman. I expect the perfect shake and I get the dead fish, the two-handed overly personal politician shake or the fingertips of someone who thinks of him- or herself as royalty. We had a pastor once who, as we were in the line leaving, would firmly grasp our hand and pull us past him, let go and reach for the next. It was like “let's keep this line moving so I can get out of here!” I wouldn't say he was pushy but he certainly was pull-y.

I always wanted to know a “secret” handshake. Like the Masons supposedly had to tell if one was meeting a fellow Mason. I wonder if other groups use this to tell if they are greeting a fellow member? Fred Flintstone had a secret Water Buffalo handshake. I wonder if the groups of today use them. The Shriners? The Moose? The Elks? I guess if I don't know about them, they really must be secret.

The perfect handshake is straight up and down so no one on top and no one on the bottom. Full-fingered and firm. Two pumps and done. But there's actually much more to making a good first impression.

Dr. Albert Mahrabian, a noted pioneer of nonverbal communication, cites that body language accounts for 55 percent of the messages you communicate in a first impression. It includes your appearance, your posture, whether you maintain eye contact, how you dress and how you shake hands. The next 38 percent is how your voice sounds: tone, texture, speed. That leaves 7 percent for what you say. If you can't make a good first impression with the first 93 percent, then it doesn't even matter what you say. People just don't have enough time to care any more. If you're interviewing for a job, the wrong handshake alone could affect your chances.

***The husband spoke English. What were you thinking for goodness’ sake?

Now go perfect your handshake and, while you're at it, close the gate!

 

Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, I'm Nancy Kraayenhof.

 

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