Extend Your Left Hand

When I was a Boy Scout, we learned to shake hands.  We were taught that you shake with your left hand and that the reason goes back to trust … you have to put down your shield in order to do this and you’re demonstrating trust in the person you’re shaking hands with.  (Sorry lefties…)  This article offers other suggested reasons why but I’m sticking with my original learning.

I was never taught to shake hands with my right hand.  It was at graduation that I was handed my diploma in my left hand that I actually had to shake with my right.  I don’t know how I felt; my only memory was of the entire audience looking at me in my moment of success.  The only other persistent handshaking memory I have was of my tour of my first school and how I really squeezed this transportation teacher’s hand hard.  He still remembers that and brings it up even these days when our paths cross.

All of these memories came flooding back when I read this article from the New York Times “Hey, Kids, Look at Me When We’re Talking”.  It was in the Fashion / Style section which still puzzles me.  Anyway, to start the article, the author indicates that “If you’re going to bring your children around me, I’m going to teach them how to shake hands”.  The rest of the article is devoted to a reflection about today’s youth, non-verbal communications, and of course, technology.

You know the argument:  “The world would be perfect if everyone was like me”.  It seems like there is research for everything.  The studies quoted are interesting but I’m not sure that I would want to hang my hat on any of them.

Now, later on in life, I’ve developed the skill to be able to shake hands with either my left or my right.  I’m fully developed in that way although it’s tough to find a Boy Scout to shake hands with my left hand.

I’ve developed other skills too.  My dad taught me how to ride a bike – his bike.  You peddle forward to go forward and you move the pedal backwards to slow down and/or stop.  I got to be pretty good at it.  His teachings only got me so far though.  I had to learn how to ride a ten-speed bike all by myself.  And, there was a great deal of learning.  I don’t want to share how many tries it took before I clued in that you don’t start from a complete stop when you’re in 10th gear.  To be honest, I only use gears 1, 5, and 10.  I just shift through the rest.  They don’t make sense to me although they probably are of use to others.  Who am I to judge?

Therein lies my problem with some of the observations with the article.  Kids aren’t done learning yet.  Sure, they have their phones and tablets and screens and they’re becoming pretty good at using them.  If the concern is that they’re overly focussed on technology, I’d suggest stepping  back and see what’s really happening.  They’re engaged and have more connections and access to more information than we ever did.  They have the potential to learn and do things that we couldn’t even dream of at that age.

If the concern is that they don’t talk to you, start the conversation yourself and engage them.  They may be wise beyond their years.  If you’re concerned that they don’t know how to shake hands, extend your own left hand in friendship.  Chances are, they’ll have their phone in theirs and will put it down to accept your greeting.

Do we really want to replicate a society of us?  I would hope that we’re expecting better.

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3 thoughts on “Extend Your Left Hand

  1. If you want to learn how to really use a ten speed you need to ride a lot of terrain. I got on my first ten speed two days before setting out on a 3000 mile ride from one coast of the US to the other. I still use most of the ten speeds on those rare occasions when I get on a bike these days. I think the lesson there is that practice and variety are both helpful for learning.

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  2. What struck me about the article was that I agreed with the author about the need to teach kids some of these skills. My own kids have had me drill into them that if an adult engages them in conversation (this usually happens at church, before the service begins or during coffee time), they need to close or put down the device, and engage in the conversation. That usually requires looking at the other person. I know that seems like common sense to us, but my kids interact with other kids in really cool ways, talking, and screen-timing simultaneously, and showing each other what they’re doing. To me, it’s just another example of being aware of context. Who am I having this conversation with, and what are their expectations of what conversation looks like?

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