Shake it with warmth

Say it with a handshake Touch reduces stress   | Photo Credit: Photo: Vijay Kumar Joshi

Anything that involves tactile sensation like a handshake lasts longer and gels faster

Hands and handshakes go a long way: upto the shoulder and quite possibly, into the heart. In the universal vocabulary of gestures and signals, handshakes get the thumbs-up. The young and the old, men and women communicate through handshakes more than through their words. Handshakes are an integral part of social interaction.

Vaishnavi, a B.Sc. second year student, says: “By just shaking hands with friends, we feel deeply connected.” Holding hands signals a deeper connection. It satisfies a primal need for touch.

Touch as a greeting runs the gamut from vigorous handshakes, the creepy nuzzling of the fingers, the fist bumps, the slaps on the shoulders and the pats on the back.

For teenagers especially, high-fives, handshakes and fist bumps, buddy slaps, buddy punches and hugs come naturally. “After all, you grow up doing this, it's such a fun thing to do” says Kashyap, a teenager.

A fist bump has many followers among youth. “I just fist bump,” says Mohan Satyadev, an engineering grad. “It's a ritual in cricket. Batsmen fist bump when they go take a strike, or when they hit a four or a six.” It looks clumsy gripping hands while wearing those gloves.”

A handshake may not bring world peace, or even, the peace between India and Pakistan. But it resolves some day-to-day conflicts.

Thaws the ice

“If I have a misunderstanding with a colleague,” says Nagesh, a marketing executive, adding: “I walk up to the guy, shake hands with him and talk face to face.” Definitely, “a warm handshake and a friendly chat” thaws the ice.

As handshakes go, there is that handshake that starts wet, sloppy, loose and as warm as a “spent and stuck match”. Then there are real bone-crushers. Finally, there is that handshake, that's not hard but firm, that's not so loose yet tight enough to convey the temp.

Narendra Babu, an M.Sc. student, says of his friend: “The first time I shook hands with him, I felt we would become friends. I just felt so much warmth in his handshake.” You feel, he says, in that handshake something powerful yet subtle, bringing people together, giving off friendly vibes. “By shaking hands, you show you're open, you are friendly,” he says and goes on to add: “And it's the most fundamental of social interactions.”

These tactile expressions carry a lot of emotion, perhaps, more accurately than the words convey. “Some touches feel creepy,” says Bhagyasri, a degree student. “You cannot expect somebody to touch you all of a sudden.”

Her friend Aruna chips in: “I feel irritable to shake hands sometimes.” She doesn't feel “we should be going overboard with all these things.”

Touch, scientists say, reduces stress”. A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust and to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.