Why I won’t be shaking your hand


Olaya Rendueles Garcia shaking hands with Zachary Adam

I feel bad, literally and figuratively, about shaking hands. I like greetings. I like the joy of meeting people new and old. I like giggling over whether we are in France with two cheek kisses, actually air kisses as you touch cheeks, or Switzerland where three is common. But I am done with shaking hands.

I will bow, namaste, curtsey, look you in the eye, say hello, fist bump, or hug. But I will not let you hurt me. I will not be shaking hands any more. I know you probably don’t intend to hurt me or anyone else. I couldn’t tell you which enthusiastic handshake in the last couple of months caused the injury. In fact, I don’t even know what exactly it is that causes a shooting pain down my index finger, but I do know that it began right after a knuckle crunching handshake below a beaming smile. At first I decided to just grit my teeth and endure subsequent handshakes, such an important part of greetings.

But then I thought no, why should I? Why should I fear every new person I meet? At first I put a brace on my hand which was irrelevant to the injury but gave a visual signal  of the problem. But that is inconvenient. So I’ll protect my hand and I hope you think about who you might be inadvertently hurting with your handshake. Just keep your hand flat and firm and touch but don’t squeeze. Don’t forget to make eye contact. Then enjoy your new friend!


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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2 Responses to Why I won’t be shaking your hand

  1. Anna Mueller says:

    Grab people’s thumbs like Ruth Bader Ginsburg

  2. Owen says:

    I shook this guy’s hand who is my mom’s friend, who calls himself “Tom the World Poet,” and the guy winced and screamed, “aah you are hurting me…” Then I saw him pulling the same act when he shook my dad’s hand. The next year when I saw him and shook his hand I did the same thing right back at him… cried out in pain… He seemed to have totally forgotten about the previous year, because he stepped back in astonishment, looked at his his hand as if to say “what power,” then smiled and exclaimed, “well I guess it’s because I am Australian!”
    … perhaps I was the victim of performance poetry.

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