The handshake has been around since the 5th century B.C. in ancient Greece. The empty hand offered to another was a sign that no weapons were present. I wonder if we can’t do better.(More)

Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

How we greet each other and acknowledge agreements has been on my mind for a couple of reasons. I recently watched the Babylon 5 TV series which has several alien races. The Minbari press their palms together (like a prayer) and bow their heads briefly when parting. Other alien races each have their own unique greeting and parting rituals. It got me to thinking.

I thought about the Obama’s fist bumps and the New Yorker cartoon. My grandkids loved the fist bumps because the President did it but it didn’t really become mainstream. Or maybe it did and I’m just not very mainstream.

I thought about all the cultural differences and the tons of advice given to business travelers roaming the globe. Having worked in a lot of cultures my approach was to look around and kind of wait and see what the rituals were in different countries. Mostly this worked well for me.

I thought about the sexism or sexual differences in handshakes. Some cultures think it preferable to kiss a woman’s hand and avoid the whole handshake thingie.

I thought about what I call the pastoral or ministerial handshake. It is the basic handshake with the spare hand placed either on the shaking hands or on the recipient’s forearm. I think it is intended to ooze sincerity and connection. I was married to a Lutheran pastor for a while and it was an unconscious part of his meet and greet. President Clinton used this a lot.

Handshakes are awfully formal somehow. With people that I feel warmly about I prefer hugs. Nothing beats a grandkid running toward me with open arms yelling, “Nana’s here. Nana’s here.” There is no way that a handshake could replace the open-armed charge.

The floor is now open for suggestions. Can we start a progressive greeting that is recognizable? Should we just move to hugs or would that dilute or cheapen the close connections they usually represent? Can anyone run for office without shaking a million hands? Firm or limp, is this even important? I’m just guessing that the Republicans are into the firm (macho) handshake. Surely we can do better.