The handshake shakedown

I grew up learning how to shake another man’s hand, traditionally.


A firm grip. Not too tight. Side by side (none of this power stuff with one hand slightly above and over the other). Eye contact, a nod of the head, and then release. Simple.

But now this happens way too often:

Utter confusion. Stuart Scott didn’t let the awkwardness get to him – he still went through with the trailing hand action, aka the explosion. Mike Miller wasn’t even expecting the fist bump, let alone the post-bump flair.

What happened to the good old-fashioned handshake? Where two men knew exactly what was expected of them during their brief meeting.

Whenever I meet another guy, and I’m including those I’m good friends with, I have no idea what to prepare for. It’s like blitz chess. In a matter of seconds, it becomes cat and mouse. Trying to determine their strategy, working out your own, working out whether to lead with your own move or defend and see what they come at you with.

It’s a lot harder to guess than you think. Aside from the handshake, these are some of the other options out there in play:

– The Fistbump
– The Fistbump with the hand trailing away, aka the previously mentioned explosion
– The High Five
– The High Five with a hand grab for a few seconds
– The High Five, Low Five where the follow through sees both arms cross, do a half circle, then meet for an extra five at the bottom
– The High Ten
– The High Ten, followed by hand grabs
– The High Ten, followed by The Hug
– The Ass Slap, usually confined to sporting achievements, but not always…
– The Hug
– The Hug with the accompanying backslap
– The Hug with the accompanying backslap, followed by the clutching of the two shoulders by only one man. A clutch by both men and it looks even more awkward.
– The Sideways Not As High Five at around neck level
– The Sideways Not As High Five which turns into a grab
– The Sideways Not As High Five which turns into a grab, quickly followed by a one-armed version of The Hug
– The Sideways Hand Slap – around waist height, and similar to the Fistbump except you slap hands (obviously).
– The Sideways Hand Slap followed by a cheeky grab of the fingers
– The Sideways Hand Slap followed by a cheeky grab of the fingers, followed by the trailing hand mimicking the explosion, or maybe it’s magic dust?
– The Jumping Shoulder Bump
– The Jumping Chest Bump
– The Drug Dealer, and
– The Fresh Prince

Now these don’t even take into account the extra variations such as the Chicken Fight, the Dirty Hand (the awkwardness that comes with having something dirty on your hands and then trying to reject the shake), or the No Handshake, which is often replaced by a nod and only looks cool as long as both males take part. One male nodding is not good.

Luckily, in my day-to-day greetings, I’ve narrowed this list down to 5 possibilities. Anything else, and the lofty expectations of the other male are going to evaporate quickly.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually think it’s quite cool. It’s a fascinating way for males to show their affection in a different way. I’ll admit, on the odd occasion when I managed to guess correctly that The Sideways Not As High Five which turns into a grab, quickly followed by a one-armed version of The Hug, was coming my way, it felt like the bond between me and the other person became that little bit stronger than it might have been with a regular handshake.

Despite the confusion, even normal handshakes can go wrong…

So I’m going to shake off my pre-shake jitters and maybe adopt one to be my own. Then lead into every greeting, leaving the other guy in absolutely no doubt that they’re about get a Fistbump/Hug/Sideways Five > Low Five/Explosion combo.

Fellas, tell me whether you get caught up in constant handshake chess battles and whether you’ve got some variations to add to the list. And the women, does this happen to you? Have I been oblivious to the awkwardness that comes with female greetings?

To finish off, I just have to post this. In 20 years time, maybe we’ll be looking at this as the standard handshake, business deals and all. Wouldn’t that be something….

13 thoughts on “The handshake shakedown

  1. I laughed so much! That was fun to read. And watch! You might want to think of the mix too … Man-woman shake! And then there is the “we were strangers”-formal hake-“now we are friends”-hug confusion!


  2. Brilliant! I think for women it’s more the style of hug/kiss that is like a chess-move: we have the one-armed, two armed, close-bear, chest only, full body, slow, fast, hands on shoulders (single/double) etc. all with variations of air-kiss, cheek kiss, (single, double, triple), no kiss…endless permutations. OK if I put a link to this on my next Hands Project post? It seems to fit 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have noooo idea and didnt realise it could be so complicated for men, too! Already I struggle if it shd be a hug, a hug with one cheek kiss, 2 cheek kisses and 3 (if you are in the company of Dutch, and not always) or a simple hand touch or handshake. Then you hv the I-don’t-even -know-you scenario, but I-hv -seen- you-around-before-so-now-it’s-a-hug.

    How does a simple hello get so complicated! Interesting post though!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my goodness. World’s best handshake just blew my mind. I am going to post this for my interns! On another note, the dilemma is even greater if you’re a woman. There is no “bro code” and I find that men in business situations are less certain what to do with a woman. (Yes, even now.) So I’ve been trying to be the one to initiate the greeting-post-meeting handshake so the men know it goes both ways.

    Liked by 1 person

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