I know the days of doing business on a handshake are long gone, and I understand the reasons why. Even in my own good old days as a contractor, I knew enough to get everything in writing. But even the tightest "ironclad" contract needed to be backed-up by a handshake. And after growing up with a heavy framing hammer in my right hand, I'd come to build a lot of business deals on what has been described as a firm grip.
In year's past, a strong handshake symbolized a good deal, inspiring confidence and a sense that the person on the other end of the shake could be trusted and had a grasp of what it takes to see things through. That handshake symbolized the connection and commitment two people made to each other at that very moment of agreement, and it could be counted on to carry them through the months of a project's ups and downs.
But things have changed, and I'm feeling a little confused these days. I guess I'll just have to come right out and say it–I don't know how to shake hands anymore. I'll go in for the standard palm-to-palm handshake that has served me so well, only to be met by a fist coming at me. This used to throw me off at first, but now I'm getting used to it and am ready to switch to the fist-bump at the last moment. Then, of course, he (this doesn't happen with women) will have already seen my handshake move and have canceled the fist-bump without my knowledge, and I end up standing there like an idiot with my clenched fist bumping into his outstretched hand, when I'm the one who wanted to shake hands in the first place!
And as if that's not enough, now you're supposed to discern when to add the top-and-bottom fist-bumps to the head-on fist-bump. And then there's the move that starts with a bump but morphs into a thumbshake-slide-snap-and-bump ending. It's enough to make me want to just stand back and adopt the Japanese tradition of bowing from the waist. Of course, it wouldn't take long before that turned into a head-bump thing, which could really hurt, especially if the other guy was going for the fist-bump. Think of the misunderstandings and broken business deals that could result from that. Pretty soon you'd be able to simply haul-off and slug your clients, subcontractors, and building inspectors–all in the name of social graces.
Now, before you assume that I'm totally out of it and can't hold up my end of the modern world, I must say that I've held my own quite well over the years, through the high-fives, the low-fives, the "give-me-tens," the hooked-thumbs, and other mostly male-dominated means of connecting. For those earnest moments, I've turned to the two-handed shake, and the always-safe-but-meaningful handshake/half-hug-plus-back-pat, all of which still seem to be alive and in play.
So I'll try and adapt to these latest moves, but I have to say, I think things have gotten a little out of hand.