Meaning in your Handshake

– It is not a frivolous gesture, but represents something significant; your word.

freemasonry, hands, grip, art

If you haven’t noticed, the handshake has been slowly going the way of the Dodo bird. If you watch sporting events, particularly at the youth level, you are more likely to see fist “bumps” or the slapping of hands as opposed to a genuine handshake. These variations of the handshake likely came from pop culture.

The handshake originated from Medieval times when combatants would greet each other with open hands, thereby indicating they were not holding any weapons and could be trusted. Over the years it has evolved into a single hand as opposed to both. With this background in mind, I always believed in giving a firm handshake and look the other person square in the eye. I am not a fan of limp-wrested handshakes, nor do I like a vice-grip shake denoting a contest of some kind. “Glad-handers” are those who work the room saying hello to everyone but not making eye contact; politicians are notorious for this.

When my son came of age, I taught him how to shake hands and greet someone. I believe he still offers a good handshake. These are things fathers need to pass on to their sons, and daughters as well.

The handshake used to mean something meaningful, specifically, your word. For years, a handshake was as good as a contract. Evidently, not so anymore. I have a friend who recently wanted to sell his Les Paul guitar. He went down to the local music store and negotiated a deal with the proprietor to sell it for him. Once they came to an arrangement, they shook on it. This surprised the proprietor who asked my friend, “Don’t you want a contract?”

My friend responded, “Do we understand each other about the terms?”

“Yes,” the owner replied.

“Is your word your bond?” my friend asked.


“Then we have a deal don’t we?”

The proprietor was taken aback and commented to my friend how this seemed unusual to him. Refreshing, but unusual. He claimed most of the young musicians frequenting his shop wanted some form of contract, and didn’t comprehend the concept of a handshake. I’m not sure why this is, I can only suspect the influence of lawyers. However, if you do not trust the person you are going to do business with, then it will not matter whether it is a written contract or a handshake. In my friend’s case, which wasn’t exactly a major business transaction, it worked out to be a mutually agreeable arrangement.

Read: The Masonic Handshake

Back in the mid-1970’s, when we first started doing business in Japan, a delegation from Tokyo approached us to serve as our representatives. We found the Japanese to be tough negotiators, but after we came to consensus, a handshake was all that was necessary to seal the deal. We, of course, signed an agreement later spelling out the terms, but this was nothing more than a formality. Over the many years we did business in Japan, not once did we ever refer back to the paper agreement, just the handshake.

The declining value of the handshake represents another indication of the erosion of our morality. It means we no longer trust each other and are suspicious of the other person’s intentions. Some people will shake, slap, or bump anyone. Not me. If I do not trust you, I certainly will not shake your hand, just as the Medieval combatants wouldn’t. To me, I place a lot of value in the handshake. I would hate to believe that people today think of it as nothing more than a frivolous gesture or as a means to transmit germs.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

For Tim’s columns, see:

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Tim Bryce and tagged , .

Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant who writes commentaries about the times we live in be it in the corporate world, the Masonic world, or our personal lives. His writings are well known on the Internet and are humorous, educational, and at times controversial. You won’t always agree with him, but Tim will definitely get you thinking.

To read more of Tim’s columns, please visit:


  1. Once again you touch upon one of those ‘raw nerve’ topics for those of us who stew over the deterioration of a truly civil society. At what point will these things (firm handshake. eye contact)–things that represent the ‘oil’ of the most basic social contact–become so unusual as to put those who employ them at a disadvantage in dealing with those who do not?

    There had to be a point, as the Victorian Era waned, when a bow or a tip of a man’s hat became first a quaint gesture and finally an odd symbol of a person somehow out of touch with the present. I suppose that all symbolic gestures must eventually give way, when the symbolism becomes lost to the majority of the society. However, in the case of the handshake and the rituals that accompany it, I see nothing replacing it that accomplishes what it has signified for those involved. The presumption of fundamental civility represented by the bow and the hat tip have certainly been replaced by a distinct, and apparently acceptable, roughness of language and gesture. I suppose that the handshake will go that same way eventually, and we shall be the poorer for it.

  2. Brother Bill – Yes, I am feeling more and more like a dinosaur. Saturday mornings are when I typically mow my lawn. A lot of people drive by. Normally, I tip my hat or give them a salute from the brim of my cap. People smile when they see it and wave back. It’s just my small way of being civil with my neighbors. As you suggest though, these are customs that are slowly disappearing. Maybe my neighbors smile since they don’t see anybody tipping a cap anymore. Maybe such gestures have become “camp.”
    All the Best,

Comments are closed.