May 23, 2018
As I have mentioned previously, I am teaching freshmen this term. On more than one occasion the subject of the handshake has been raised. Personally, I don’t think much about shaking someone else’s hand, I just do it, it’s ingrained in me to stick my hand out when I meet someone for the first time. My students, however, are not so inclined and they view the little ritual as “old-fashioned” and “unnecessary.” In fact, they have made it clear, they don’t want to pursue a career in which one must remember to shake someone’s hand.
These various interchanges got me to thinking about the handshake. Is it really all that necessary?
I have a simple answer – YES!
It may seem old-fashioned, but these little courteous rituals are important. They demonstrate a sense of respect. When you shake someone’s hand, you also look them in the eye. Saying please and thank you demonstrates you appreciate the other person’s gesture or effort. Following up with a thank you email after an interview shows the recipient you appreciate the time they took to meet with you or you are still interested in the position.
If we let these courteous elements go, at what point do we become so casual, so laissez-faire, that other things no longer matter? When we allow these common courtesies to fall by the wayside, we are signaling to others that we no longer care about the details, the small things, and at some point, we will no longer are about the bigger things.
Next time the opportunity to shake someone’s hand arises – do it – not because it may be old-fashioned, but because you want to uphold something that makes a statement about who you are and how you choose to act.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies