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John Lamb, Published October 18 2011

Lamb: Shake it up on your next handshake

At the end of this past Sunday’s slate of football games the biggest hit of the day wasn’t even between players, but rather between two prickly coaches.

In case you moved into a cave on Saturday, or are a Vikings fan that has been wearing a bag on your head all season, here’s what happened:

In the marquee match-up of the day, the San Francisco 49ers upset the unbeaten Detroit Lions in a back-and-forth game. When the coaches met mid-field for the customary post-game pleasantries, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh came in fast and gave his Lions counterpart, Jim Schwartz a quick, hard handshake, followed by a slap on the back.

Schwartz took exception, chased after Harbaugh, started bumping and jawing and the two had to be separated.

The most awkward greeting by two opposing leaders since George W. Bush surprised German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a back-rub at the G-8 Summit has been dissected byevery ESPN analyst, talk radio jock and sports blogger with an opinion.

But being dealt a bad shake isn’t just a jock’s jam.

There are a lot of greetings for friends (“fist bump,” “pound shake,” “homie hug,” “hetero hug,” “bro-bash” and “thug hug”), but some greeters can be a bit too overzealous, grabbing the hand too hard or shaking too vigorously.

The obvious way to counter this is to always have a joy buzzer within reach. Some of us failed Boy Scouts aren’t so well-prepared.

Instead, we can respond with the political shakedown, in which your left hand grasps your counterpart’s right forearm while shaking right hands. Maybe you can’t deliver quite the crushing grip, but it shifts the balance of power and gets people thinking that just maybe the two of you will walk your own Bridge to Nowhere.

That’s the subtle play. If you want to go in for the kill, literally, when someone greets you with an iron grip, lean in with the mafia-inspired Kiss of Death. Let the gripper shake in his own shoes knowing his time is marked and the next hand he’ll shake, will be the Devil’s.

Too dark? Try going a bit softer with the dead-fish, letting your hand go limp as it’s being grasped. Or offer up a cold-and-clammy hand. Either of those will likely shock your greeter and quite possibly lead him or her to overreact or make a fool of themselves.

Sometimes the best way to beat your opponent is to let them beat themselves.

If that fails, hit ’em with the joy buzzer.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533