Q. I am a C4 quadriplegic and cannot move my right wrist or fingers. During waking hours, I wear a splint on my right hand to hold that wrist and lower arm in place, and attached to the splint is a cuff that wraps around my hand to enable me to hold things. My problem occurs when I want to shake hands. In professional and personal encounters, when I put out my right hand, the other person often doesn’t touch it and just says hello. This makes me incredibly uncomfortable and self-conscious. Should I say something or just let it go at “hello” and a head nod?
A. Conquering the handshake situation can be awkward and anxiety-provoking for everyone involved. Shaking hands when you meet someone is an etiquette norm in the United States as well as in many other countries. Much has been written about the nature and nuance of “the shake” and how important it is to make a good first impression. A firm shake commonly indicates confidence, while a weak one means you are tentative. The list goes on, with myriad interpretations of the supposed meaning of each handshake. No wonder getting the gesture right can be so stress-inducing.
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