“Power” handshake can strain fingers, joints

A "power" handshake put Cindy McCain's arm in a sling. Use courtesy and caution to avoid hand injury.

A "power" handshake put Cindy McCain's arm in a sling. Use courtesy and caution to avoid hand injury.

Avoid the gorilla grip when shaking hands

Didn’t you sympathize with Cindy McCain when she was injured during her husband’s campaign by a “power” handshake? Cindy has had surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome, and the overly energetic handshake exacerbated her condition.

The accumulated damage of sports injuries and car accidents has taken its toll on my hands and wrists, so I find myself in a vulnerable position during hand-shaking “opportunities.”  I’ve encountered these power-shakers in many places:  businesses,  school functions, even church. The shakers look friendly, eager to mingle and happy to meet me. We’re introduced, and they offer a hand to shake.

He or she could be the size of a linebacker, and I’m afraid they might inadvertently hurt my hand.  What to do?

He or she has no idea how vulnerable my hand is, from injury, arthritis or simply a matter of time.

We don’t have to put our arms in a sling as Cindy did, to protect ourselves, nor do we have to run screaming, or hide behind someone, or mumble about being of “an advanced age.”

This is the defensive position I’ve taken to protect my hands. I give a genuine smile and offer my right hand, using my left hand to “present” my right hand, almost as if offering a plate. I keep my hand close to my body as I do this, so he or she sees I’m protecting it. Then I just say, “It’s sprained. Please be gentle.” Only then do I extend my hand.

The reaction is beautiful. People would never want to intentionally hurt us, so they’re amazingly responsive, often taking my hand in both of theirs in a protective embrace. Very nice!

White lie? Not really.  My hand-shaking equipment *is* strained, with injury and age. My hand is in a vulnerable position and it is easy to sprain. this method is polite, doesn’t require a lengthy discussion about aging and infirmities, while still allowing the warmth of meeting someone to come through – without the danger.

What’s your “healthy-hand strategy” against the power hand-shake?


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