1. Winifred Rosenburg

    Is this answer specifically for business situations or all situations? I was under the impression that the gender rule still applied to social situations, but in business situations the higher ranking person should lead the handshake regardless of gender.

    • Chocobo

      There is a lingering notion that women take social precedence, so I do not think it would not be wrong for a man to wait for a woman to extend her hand, albeit old-fashioned. However, gender relations are continuing to change, and so I do not think it would be wrong for a man to extend his hand first, either.

      As I understand it, waiting for a woman to extend her hand is a relic of the 19th century, when bowing was the standard greeting for strangers and acquaintances and the hand-shake was considered more intimate. Ladies seem to have been given the power to determine how close a relationship was, so the handshake rule makes sense: if handshakes are for closer relationships, then gentlemen should wait for ladies to initiate that kind of contact signaling intimacy. It prevented gentlemen from assuming too much familiarity where it was not due. But bowing has gone the way of the dodo, so there is no other way to greet one another other than a handshake, not to mention a radical change in gender relations since that time as well.

  2. Vanna Keiler

    My impressions are, from a business-related standpoint, handshaking when being introduced to a new associate seems to still be status quo in today’s world, and indicates both professionalism and willingness to work together (kind of “seals the deal”). This also applies to job interviews. And I believe in business circles, in western societies at least, it applies regardless of sex. Who initiates the handshake? Some say we should wait until the senior individual initiates this, which makes some sense (respectfully follow the senior’s lead). I think using visual and behavioral cues during an introduction would be the best strategy: see if the other person is extending their hand or leaning to do so, and do likewise, if unsure. I think regardless, an offer of a handshake is generally well-received and shows friendly interest and great communication skills.

    For non-business related introductions, I don’t know if it is necessary to offer one’s hand, unless the other person feels the need to do so – it would then be awkward to not extend one’s own hand. However, as outlined above, I agree if you have a physical reason you would prefer not to shake someone’s hand in a social setting, I don’t think it would be a social faux pas to smile and wave your hand instead or just offer a really warm hello. I think the social etiquette scene has evolved in western society to a more relaxed, informal culture. However, in a high-society event where there is the possibility of initiating business relations, I imagine people continue to put on their “formal” hat and behave as if they were in a business setting.

  3. Allyce

    Our church, like many, after initial hymn has a custom of everyone greeting by going around and shaking hands. Now-a-days due to painful arthritic fingers, I often offer my hand “pinky up” before the other person has a chance to offer his/her hand. This gesture sends a signal to the other person. If the person expresses surprise, I explain.

    As for handshakes in business or other situations, tradition should be observed unless there is good reason to do otherwise. For people of similar ages & status, a lady who wishes to shake hands should be the one to offer. For people of dissimilar ages/ status, the more mature person or the person of higher status (as in the case of Queen Elizabeth) might wish to be the one who decides to shake or not. However, I sometimes find myself offering a hand to someone whom I admire, out of a sense of honor.

    It is unfortunate that most of our parents were not taught propriety in this regard, so it was not passed on to us children. As has been said, rules of etiquette are not just for the sake of rules, but so that there is an order and civility to society.

    I recently read that French parents drill into their children from very early age the necessity not only of “Merci” & “S’il vous plait” (“Thank you” & “Please”), but “Bonjour Madame/ Monsieur” & “Au revoir Madame/ Monsieur” (“Hello Mrs./ Mr.” & “Goodbye Mrs./ Mr.”). This simple act causes children to acknowledge their status in society, and that the world does not revolve around them.

    • Alicia

      I’m having trouble understanding how one offers their hand pinky up without contortions. Handshakes are common at many churches. If you can not due to pain do handshake having you hands at your waist and smiling at people if asked just say ( oh i do not shake hands) seems the way to avoid it rather then offering hand in different position . But whatever works for you but when the church instructs others to offer their hand in peace to the congrigation it is hardly surprizing that others would offer to shake your hand regardless of gender. It would be rude of them to not.

  4. Vanna Keiler

    Allyce: If I could comment on your comment “It is unfortunate that most of our parents were not taught propriety in this regard, so it was not passed on to us children. As has been said, rules of etiquette are not just for the sake of rules, but so that there is an order and civility to society.”

    Nowadays, if a child was taught and proceeded to bow or curtsy and offer his or her hand to a stranger, it would most likely be received with a raised eyebrow by an adult or child. Furthermore, I can see the poor child being bullied or mocked in a playground for displaying “Mary Poppin”-esque and outdated behavior. As adults, we quickly learn the art of business etiquette when we enter a work environment, and when we do not, we always have wonderful resources like friends and the EPI staff to help us out. :)

  5. Heather

    Vanna: I’d like to go back even further. I suggest bowing (kowtowing) to our elders, with our foreheads on the ground, in order to show respect. :)

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