The Precarious State Of The Powerful Handshake And Why Intentional Human Connection Matters

It’s almost National Handshake Day. Most people won’t exactly celebrate a date dedicated to a commonplace greeting. But I will. Whether it’s in my DNA or was just drilled into me by my immigrant father, I subscribe to my dad’s mantra that your handshake is your word.   

COVID changed how we greet each other in work and life. The common greeting that once set the tenor of a meeting came to a grinding halt. I was recently elbow bumped at an event. I’m a hugger, not to mention a strong handshaker. My shake conveys my convictions. It says I’m present with you right now and I’m listening. It guarantees I’ll deliver on my promises. It holds me accountable. An elbow bump just doesn’t have the same gravitas.   



There’s nothing innocuous about a handshake. I can’t wait until the uncomfortable elbow bumps that come with awkward chuckles can be retired. As Harvard Business Review professors professed, handshakes before negotiations can have a surprisingly strong impact on business.    

Handshakes set the tone of a connection. A handshake is a promise. It’s a guarantee. It completes the contract. They solidify deals. For me, they’re a business imperative.   

A consummate gentleman who instilled the values of tenacious work in his kids, my dad used handshakes to open doors and cement deals. He used them to convey his character and move his wares. My dad made sure his five kids were schooled in the art of the handshake. As his youngest kid, I was always striving to be seen through the shadows of my siblings. I mastered the handshake, according to my dad. That was among the best accolades he ever delivered to me. A piece of my business acumen that’s always intentional.   

But things change. As COVID moves further into the rearview, perhaps the handshake will make a rebound. In its absence, I’ve come to realize that what’s most important is creating intentional moments of human-to-human connection. To be present, and really listen. The gesture itself matters less (though I still maintain that the elbow bump has gotta go!).   

So June 27 is a day I’ll remind myself to make every connection an intentional one. I’ll remember the significance my father, Alfred DiTullio, placed on his handshake as he built his beauty supply distribution business in Buffalo.   

To me, a handshake is about trust. It says hello, goodbye, and conveys there will definitely be a next time. To shake or not to shake? To me, there’s no question – but however you choose to punctuate your connections, make it intentional. Show that you’re present. Your reputation depends on it. 

Next story loading loading..