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The One Ring Forums: Off Topic: The Pollantir:
Handshaking etiquette between men and women
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Poll: Handshaking etiquette between men and women
Lady extends hand first
It doesn't matter who goes first
Lady palm down, man palm up
Palms perpendicular to ground for both
Wipe hand on jacket first
We don't shake hands where I am from
Give me some skin!
Only at first meeting
Every time you meet
View Results (78 votes)


Dec 1 2011, 3:00am

Post #1 of 48 (879 views)
Handshaking etiquette between men and women Can't Post

Wizard farts and my usual antics notwithstanding I often wonder about etiquette. A question that has been plaguing me is regarding the custom of shaking hands among men and women:

How do you do (it)? There's what I was taught to do and then there's what usually happens, which may inadvertently leave a bad impression. TORn being a femine board makes it the ideal place to ask. Multiple answers allowed.

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Dec 1 2011, 3:03am)

Superuser / Moderator

Dec 1 2011, 3:25am

Post #2 of 48 (611 views)
Only at first meeting, doesn't matter who goes first, [In reply to] Can't Post

and in a vaguely work-related setting - I don't, for instance, shake the hand of someone I first meet at a neighbourhood BBQ, where a "G'day, I'm Ataahua" will suffice.

(This post was edited by Ataahua on Dec 1 2011, 3:26am)

Tol Eressea

Dec 1 2011, 3:39am

Post #3 of 48 (569 views)
Other... [In reply to] Can't Post

because I have no idea....and I don't know that any of those options are what I would stick to? I'm a slob, so I would never remember and would screw it up somehow thinking too much about it.....high five works for me....(insert vision of David Puddy from Seinfeld here, 'High five').

Superuser / Moderator

Dec 1 2011, 3:57am

Post #4 of 48 (539 views)
*Years* ago [In reply to] Can't Post

I was bridesmaid at my sister's wedding in the US and she surprised us with a stretch limo to take us to the church. The other bridesmaid (my sister's soon-to-be sister-in-law) celebrated by turning to me with a high-five - and I had no idea what she was doing. "Why are you standing there with your hand up?"

Clearly I hadn't taken enough notice of US TV shows to apply them to real life!

Tol Eressea

Dec 1 2011, 4:04am

Post #5 of 48 (548 views)
That's funny.... [In reply to] Can't Post

amazing how small the world is now with the internet and all.....there is a scene in Adam Sandler's Waterboy, where the main character is not familiar with the term 'high-five', but wants to partake in the celebration, so he keeps asking his fellow players to 'slap-hands'.....

Grey Havens

Dec 1 2011, 4:26am

Post #6 of 48 (529 views)
Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

Let's see... I put "it doesn't matter who offers a hand first", "both with palms perpendicular to the ground", "on first meeting" and other.

Usually, on first meeting someone, I stick with a handshake or the Japanese bow (especially if it's a more formal situation.) You can't really tell if a person is a handshake person or a hug person or a kiss on the cheek person or whatever on first meeting. On second meetings, and it's a less formal situation, I hug, unless I know that person is not a hugger (I am though Smile).

Tol Eressea

Dec 1 2011, 4:30am

Post #7 of 48 (574 views)
There was a sociology thing at my school [In reply to] Can't Post

Some people did this "test" where they measured how strong people's handshakes were (you didn't know what it was about until after the handshake). It was kind of interesting, except after I found out what was happening, I informed them that I always try and match the other person's strength. (I don't like shaking people's hands when they have a weak shake and I feel like I could break their hand, so I usually try to avoid that) :P

I like shaking hands. It sort of establishes a connection.

Tol Eressea

Dec 1 2011, 4:33am

Post #8 of 48 (565 views)
Or in Airplane... [In reply to] Can't Post

that scene where Ted and Elaine go to that tribe for their Peace Corps assignment, and Ted gives the chieftain a high five, which doesn't turn out well....Crazy


Forum Admin / Moderator

Dec 1 2011, 4:38am

Post #9 of 48 (567 views)
Hmm, interesting study. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm with you: I try to match the other person. Normally I have a pretty firm handshake, but I hate feeling that I've just crushed the other person or ground their bones together so I've learned to go gently until I can gauge what I'm up against.

Tol Eressea

Dec 1 2011, 4:45am

Post #10 of 48 (495 views)
I had forgotten [In reply to] Can't Post

that scene, truly a hilarious part of a hilarious movie.


Dec 1 2011, 4:48am

Post #11 of 48 (584 views)
I was taught... [In reply to] Can't Post

...that the woman extends her hand first, and if she doesn't, that's a signal that no handshake should occur. That was a long time ago, though, so I doubt that rule is still observed much.

I don't remember any teaching about the palm orientation, but think both perpendicular to the ground is more practical.

To me, basic politeness is to respond appropriately to any gesture at first meeting, so if someone sticks out a hand I'll shake it, and if someone offers a hug that's ok, too (as long as it's not overdone). In Hawaii, kissing is normal, especially if it's someone you've met before (even if you don't know him/her well). I find that a little hard to get used to, but I do it.

Aunt Dora Baggins

Dec 1 2011, 4:59am

Post #12 of 48 (558 views)
The palm up/down thing sounds more like square dance ettiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

When square dancing, men hold their hands palm up and women hold their hands palm down. But in international folk dancing, if the circle is traveling to the right, which is the usual direction, everyone holds the right hand palm up and the left hand palm down. This avoids twisting arms.


Dec 1 2011, 5:00am

Post #13 of 48 (529 views)
I always go for the kiss on the cheek [In reply to] Can't Post

The only time I shake hands with a woman is on the first meeting...from then on it's usually a brief peck.

Aunt Dora Baggins

Dec 1 2011, 5:04am

Post #14 of 48 (592 views)
I found handshaking painful until I learned this trick. [In reply to] Can't Post

I get tendonitis in my hands, and have been reduced to tears by a hearty handshake. I finally learned this counter-intuitive trick: Press the web between your thumb and forefinger forcefully into the same part of the other person's hand. Somehow that helps prevent the pain. I'm not sure how it works, but it does seem to help some.


Dec 1 2011, 6:19am

Post #15 of 48 (553 views)
Nice question [In reply to] Can't Post

I like a firm handshake when I meet a person.

I strongly dislike limp handshakes from women where you're given two fingers (and it's even worse when you get such a handshake from a man). But I also dislike a man who grips your hand in a Superman fashion - leaving you nursing a sore hand.

So long as it's relatively firm and associated with a friendly smile I couldn't care about anything else. And even the limp or superman handshake I can forgive so long as there's that smile.

Tol Eressea

Dec 1 2011, 2:04pm

Post #16 of 48 (555 views)
I miss old etiquettes [In reply to] Can't Post

We have lost any specific handshaking etiquette, if we've ever had such...

Which isn't entirely just a good thing. In social situations with strangers and half-strangers I often end up missing precise etiquette known to all. It can be very awkward and embarassing when you don't know how to act. If there was some common rule, you could just keep to that when you wouldn't know better.

This is especially relevant with the formal (respective) and informal (familiar) second-person pronouns, which English thankfully doesn't have.

It can be incredibly hard to decide wether I should speak to some people in formal or infomal manner. If the person is older than me, then I perhaps should speak to him/her in the formal way, but the person could interprent it as me thinking he's an old geezer and get insulted. If I speak in informal manner, it may sound rude.

If the person is my patient (I'm an oral hygienist) I'm equally at loss, because on the other hand it would be polite to use formal speech for your patient/customer/etc, but if the patient isn't accustomed to being spoken to in such manner he might feel it's awkward or even condescending. If the patient is approximately my age I might choose to use informal speech, but if the person believes he deserves formal speaking from me in such situation, he might once again get insulted for being treated ill just because he's young. And so on. Crazy

So it leads into painful moments where I jump between using formal and informal pronouns, making me sound like a complete idiot - which, granted, is how I feel like.

(This post was edited by Faenoriel on Dec 1 2011, 2:10pm)

Alassėa Eruvande

Dec 1 2011, 2:30pm

Post #17 of 48 (484 views)
In South Texas, where I'm from, mostly it's just the men who shake hands. [In reply to] Can't Post

The custom is for the men to shake hands at every meeting, (and also when they say good bye to each other) and tip or touch their hats to ladies. Sometimes it's a nod to ladies. Older gentlemen and those younger ones brought up properly remove their hats in a lady's presence, as well as while they're indoors.
A lot of times I'll offer my hand to a man, and you can tell, for a split second, he doesn't know what to do. Smile But he'll shake my hand every time.

My brothers shake hands with each other every time they see each other, and they both shake hands with my husband each time. The boy kids get hand shakes and the girl kids get hugs.

Forum Admin / Moderator

Dec 1 2011, 2:34pm

Post #18 of 48 (536 views)
The majority of times that I shake hands [In reply to] Can't Post

I do it with the non-sword hand. Unimpressed


Dec 1 2011, 3:51pm

Post #19 of 48 (518 views)
I shake hands with people I meet for business [In reply to] Can't Post

as the masculine paradigms still pretty much rule there. I will also shake hands if the other person puts their hand out - pretty much only men do that, and I notice that some of them do go for the crushing grip, but I prefer that to the totally limp hand (also, my hands are tiny, and I always think the crushers must feel a little bit silly when they realize that).

In other situations I look 'em in the eye, smile, and say "nice to meet you, _______" - because if I don't repeat their name I'll forget it instantly, and I think it's a nice acknowledgment anyway. Most people seem to think this is sufficient.

I'm usually not a hugger-on-first-meeting person, but I have met quite a few who are. I don't know if this is still just a West Coast thing.


Dec 1 2011, 3:54pm

Post #20 of 48 (557 views)
actually we do have the "intimate" pronoun [In reply to] Can't Post

but only the Amish and some Quakers still use "thee" and "thou" - unless you're going for the Shakespeare vibe.


Dec 1 2011, 4:06pm

Post #21 of 48 (549 views)
A shallow bow... [In reply to] Can't Post

...as I lightly take her hand. Then if she indicates she wishes to go for a full handshake I can accomodate her.


Dec 1 2011, 4:36pm

Post #22 of 48 (525 views)
I wait for the other person to offer. [In reply to] Can't Post

Or not.

Partly out of natural shyness.

And partly because I've seen too many people not washing their hands after using the bathroom, so the fewer hands I have to touch, the better. Tongue


Dec 1 2011, 5:59pm

Post #23 of 48 (444 views)
If only to show you do not have a shield ;) // [In reply to] Can't Post



Dec 1 2011, 6:15pm

Post #24 of 48 (529 views)
Kindred souls [In reply to] Can't Post

I noticed, as if by instinct, that I bow or nod, or sometimes lift my hand to my forehead (not making the L sign of course) to tip a hat that is hardly ever there. Very few bows are returned though so I figured it was just a quirk of mine.

When wearing a hat, I usually take it off when speaking with a lady, especially an older lady. The custom is so disused in these parts that you can literally see in older women their countenance melt as if transported back in time. (Same goes for sunglasses if it is more than a casual greeting, regardless of gender.)

What inspired this thread is I usually go for a light squeeze with women, though I find they often go for the man shake. Very few women these days offer their hand as if to have it kissed, that is, palm down. I understand that times have changed and would prefer to err on the side of caution, especially at first encounters.

It is not a simple matter when one considers that bows and curtsies are still practiced, for the most part, in accordance with one's apparent gender.


Dec 1 2011, 6:24pm

Post #25 of 48 (492 views)
Thank you Elizabeth [In reply to] Can't Post

This cuts to the heart of the matter I think:

I was taught that the woman extends her hand first, and if she doesn't, that's a signal that no handshake should occur. That was a long time ago, though, so I doubt that rule is still observed much.

It's tricky because at first encounters, by definition, you do not know where the other person is on the whole sliding scale of cultural norms. It is even trickier in cultures where people do not shake hands, or only shake hands on certain occasions and with certain people.

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