On Shaking Hands by A.G. Gardiner
In On Shaking Hands by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of civility, conflict, change, perception and choice. Taken from his Many Furrows collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of civility and the difficulties that one can incur with the simple act of shaking another individual’s hand. There are many wrong ways to do so. At least in Gardiner’s eyes and the act of shaking a person’s hand is similar to an art form. One does not wish to be over enthusiast or superficial when shaking a person’s hand. Rather the individual needs to do things in the correct manner. A manner that is only know in Western society were the act of shaking hands is customary. This may be important as by placing the spotlight on Western society Gardiner may be suggesting that society in general is limited in how it deals with engaging with another person. The difficulties of shaking another person’s hands in a proper manner do not appear to affect other cultures. The Russians have the ability to kiss one another on the cheek. The Indians use salaams while the Arabs touch the breast of their friend. None of these greetings appear to be problematic to the cultures concerned. However to someone from England such practices are frowned upon and one tries to master the handshake to the best of their ability.
What is also interesting about the essay is how irritable some handshakes can be for Gardiner. He thinks in a very proper manner and has a general rule as to what is the right way to shake hands. His comparisons of other people’s handshakes are also unflattering and Gardiner appears to be judging the person based on their handshake. Which may or may not be justified. Depending on one’s own personal views of what a decent hand shake is. If anything not only does Gardiner judge an individual by the manner of their handshake but it often leads to a conflict for Gardiner. Allowing for his personal opinion of a person to be changed due to the quality of their handshake. Which may suggest to some readers that Gardiner is going to extremes. Judging a person based solely on the quality of their handshake. When in reality their character may be different to the perception that Gardiner derives from the handshake.
However to be fair to Gardiner most people will judge another individual based on their handshake. Should it not match their own or be in tandem with how they shake hands. An unkind and possibly unfair judgement will be made. If one was to use a handshake as the guiding principle of a person’s character many people would not be in the positions that they hold today. The would be judged for a weak or over bearing handshake and any business that one might wish to engage with the person might be met with a narrow-mind due to the quality of the handshake. However there is no persuading Gardiner who firmly believes in a right and wrong way to shake another person’s hand. A problem that is only cultivated in Western society or at least that he how Gardiner sees it. Which may leave some readers to suspect that Gardiner himself is no more than an instrument of Western society and that society itself is at fault with its inability to change or engage with the practices of other cultures.
Perhaps the real problem for those who shake hands is the fact that there is so much choice or so many different ways to do so. What may be pleasing to one person may not be pleasing to another. The manner in which one shakes hands is something that cannot be agreed on. Each individual will have their personal preferences and consider the way they shake hands to be the proper way to do so. Just as Gardiner despises certain types of handshakes others may not be as particular and might enjoy the very manner of handshake that Gardiner dislikes. It is a matter of personal taste and an issue that each person will have a different opinion on. There is no right or wrong way to shake another person’s hand only personal preferences. Something that Gardiner expresses clearly in his essay. Though in Gardiner’s case he allows for himself to become irritated by the manner in which some people shake his hand. It is as though he takes the task personally and that there are rules for engagement when it comes to shaking another person’s hands. Again this is not the case. There is no right or wrong way to shake a person’s hands only a person’s personal preference.