Ile-Ife, NIGERIA — Sensitivity is one basic feature in mixed societies. In this part of southwestern Nigeria, growing individuals at the secondary school level or youth at the tertiary level must have experienced a refusal during occasions where the male prompts a handshake to a female.

This, in our society, is largely premised on the religious and traditional inclination of the people in question.

Some cultures govern the idea that, to maintain the masculine status quo, men should not shake hands with women. Others restrict the handshakes to daughters below marriageable ages, while some others still are binding on the female folk to resist any handshake (especially for Islamic backgrounds).

I believe handshakes are simply a form of greeting. In formal settings, for example, it is the most acceptable form of greeting. It is largely believed, however, that the handshake reflects the white man’s system, adopted after we were willed into existence from Lord and Lady Lugard‘s colonial laboratory of artificial insemination. But then, the question is not the refusal of handshakes, but the subsequent embarrassment they carry, especially in public.

Which way leads out?

Conventional wisdom posits that, in any formal setting — a business setting for example — it is proper for a lady to shake hands with a man whether it was initiated by him or her. However, if you do not feel comfortable shaking hands with a lady, I suggest you should not initiate the handshake.

If, alternatively, the lady initiates a handshake, you should respond in kind to avert any embarrassment that may ensue. Also, if you know the religious or cultural inclination of the opposite sex by virtue of prior information or “readable information” (e.g. a Muslim lady’s hijab), at that moment, it is advised you do not initiate the handshake unless she does. Likewise, a reference to a name such as “Aishat” or names in that order should make you refrain from handshakes unless she initiates it.

In less formal settings, there are situations where the male could find substitutes for handshakes. I personally employ the “chop knuckle” (the exchange of folded fists by either party) in cases like this.

Our world is a 21st-century one. We choose to flow with trends or refuse them. What do you think about the subject of shaking hands?

(Please note that this post is not targeted at any individual or sect-religious or traditional. Any misconception as to nominals is not deliberate.)