Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Peculiar obsession for the week

It's hard for me to admit that I can obsess at times. If you knew me personally you'd probably be a bit surprised to learn it, as I hide it well (at least I think I do in comparison to others I see do it all the time). If you are familiar with this blog, it's probably not a huge surprise, as I think it may come across in the writing.

Anyway, I have a mild obsession going on for the last month. Working from home means you interact less with people. This can really screw up your social skills. Reflecting on times I've been around people in the last couple years, I become a bit horrified at times that I'm so uneasy, anxious, or out of sync talking to people face to face. I'm sure there is a part of my worry that is unfounded, but I know those skills have eroded some due to not having to use them.

This leads me to my newest obsession over the past couple months, the handshake. Not meeting new people or shaking hands regularly has made me worried that my handshake might stink the next time I need to use it. Which means I've been obsessing over it. I'm sure some of this comes from the fact that I'm acutely aware that I would have more situations where I would need to use it, since we are living in a new area.

My obsession takes two forms. The first is thinking about the act as you are doing it, which for something like a handshake is asking for trouble as it's really not something you should concentrate on. Is it to firm, too soft, bone-crunching? Since there is an art to the handshake, I'm confident that thinking about it while performing the action is only going to lead to disastrous results. Luckily, I think I've been able to ignore these thoughts during the process and have been able to rely on past muscle memory to perform it correctly. For those that are unfamiliar with the anxiety I'm talking about for this, think of it as really trying to concentrate on giving a high five. You are far better off just performing the action, rather then trying to 'think' about it.

My second obsession about it is due to recent events. I was working one day and noticed an article on Yahoo.com's homepage about handshakes. I was doing fine until the end of the article where it stated that it's inappropriate to offer to shake hands with a female, unless they have offered their hand first. Crap, I didn't know this and many of the new acquaintances I've came in contact with recently are female and I've offered my hand first. Now, I'm not one to beat myself up over the etiquette faux pas, it's a live and learn situation; however looking back on those encounters, I'm fairly certain that I caused some awkwardness in the encounters with my action. Not recognizing that awkwardness is what I'm obsessing over, in the past I'm confident I would have noticed it more quickly (like during the encounter, rather then a week or so later).

While I just said that I don't beat myself up over etiquette mistakes that you are able to learn from, that's probably not entirely true either. I'm sort of horrified at the thought that for many years now I've not been aware of this. I'm trying to rationalize it in a couple of different ways.

1. Maybe the cases of shaking hands with women before actually had them offering it first.

2. Maybe, it's not such a mistake due to the field I'm in.

3. Maybe, it's just an archaic piece of etiquette, after all, aren't we equals now?

Perhaps those reading this can offer some insight into this.

Until I can resolve the thoughts with this , I'm thinking about some of the ways to proceed for encounters with woman where I would typically think to shake hands.

1. Go European, kisses on the cheeks. (Probably not going to work, too many reasons to list, besides I just don't have the personality to pull this one off, wife probably would interpret it wrong as well)
2. Bow (again going to be a problem, as I know there are different meanings depending on how far you bow).
3. Hug (this won't work, how hard should you hug, where do the hands go in back, this has the potential to be worse than handshaking).
4. Stand far enough away that it's not an option, preferably choose a position where there are things in between you during initial conversation. (this works well if my daughter is there, as I can just awkwardly position her in front of me and move her as needed).
5. Stand too close to people during introductions (shift the anxiety to them, although you do have the risk of appearing 'creepy')
6. Fist bump (I'm thinking of taking this to Howie Mandel levels and always wear gloves, pretending I've got Mysophobia or OCD with a fear of germs. I'm guessing this wouldn't leave the initial impression I want though)
7. Refuse to interact with anyone.

Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment section.

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