There is a gentleman at my church (yes, I attend church and even teach a class) that shakes hand like a vice. I’m not sure what his point is in doing that but he does_every week. How you as a Chaplain shake hands, speak, and express yourself facially and with your body will dictate the success or failure of your visit.
Here are a few of the more notorious types of handshakes:
- The Vice Grip—As I mentioned above this is a hand crushing type of handshake. Ultimately its purpose is to show dominance, strength, and even intimidation. These qualities are the last things a Chaplain wants to express to his patients and their family members.
- The Lobster—This handshake has this moniker because the dominant person simply grasps the other person’s fingers, but does not grasp the hand. Again, this is along the lines of dominance and superiority and not a handshake a Chaplain should employ.
- The Sweaty Handshake—If you’ve ever experienced this handshake you know that your hand is perfectly dry, but the other person’s hand is sweaty, giving a yucky feeling. This is not atypical for a hospice patient or family member to be nervous when they greet you. If their hand is sweaty, so be it. Do not allow your facial expression to look surprised or dismayed or shocked.
- The Dead Fish—Chaplain, know thyself. If your personality style is passive or reserved, do not allow that to come across in the way you shake hands. A handshake begins the visit, as does your tone of voice and your facial expression. You just can’t sabotage yourself with a dead fish, limp handshake.
- The embraced handshake—This is a very acceptable handshake if it matches your facial expression and tone of voice. A handshake where you embrace the other person’s hand with your hands conveys warmth and caring. Be sure all about you agrees with warmth and caring.
- The firm handshake—I saved this one for last simply because there is a difference between it and the vice grip. Firm, but not crushing. Firm, but not intimidating. Firm but brief so as not to linger trying to out shake the other person. Facial expression and tone of voice convey your level of engagement with the person.
Chaplain Colleagues, the way you begin your visit cannot be undervalued. Your smile, you kind words of greeting and your handshake will put your patients and their families at ease. Providing a non-anxious presence will serve as a catalyst to many a positive and healing discussion.