Posts Tagged muslims
Ever since I’ve posted the guide on avoiding handshakes (and tried each and every single method), I seem to have been caught in more awkward situations. Once I did the hand-over-heart gesture, and the lady still extends her hand. There must be better way to avoid something I don’t want to do.
Then recently, a memo was sent announcing a new female colleague. She will be doing her rounds getting introduced to everyone. Definitely some handshaking is going to take place. And I’ve got to figure out the ultimate way to get out of it.
I was still seated at my desk reading the memo when I saw the company rep walking towards my office. And with him, a lady who looks to be all chirpy.
A chirpy, jovial, and excited new employee. There’s definitely going to be some handshaking going on.
They were headed towards my office, nodding and smiling to whoever is in their line of sight. To those who stand close enough, a handshake is a inexcusable.
They walked, paused every now and then, and chatted to other employees. Once the customary introduction’s done, they continued their march in my direction.
Each step they took was a countdown.
I have to come up with something. Fast.
I can’t play dumb, they saw me. And they knew I saw them. Furthermore I’ll be all alone and cornered at my desk. I still haven’t perfected the hand-over-heart gesture; which usually – in my experience – leaves people walking away with an awkward look. And I actually prefer a more sanguine first impression.
I can hear their footsteps, meaning they’re just outside my door. Should I fake hand injury?
Without waiting for a reply, the office door immediately swung open.
It’s now or never. My eyes scanned the office. I see my stationery spread across the desk… My sight landed on my trusty ball-point pen.
Ah, the mighty pen. The mighty pen… Which unfortunately is rather useless at the moment. Unless if I use it to jab the lady’s hand. Yes, of course! That’ll spare me from an awkward situation. No, a voice whipered inside me. What are you crazy? Jabbing someone with a pen! Why, there’s a pair of scissors right beside it!
Wonderful sense of humor, my panicky brain.
“Hi,” a male voice broke the silence.
“Err, hi,” I said. I stood up and smiled at the two characters who just stepped into my office.
Good, I thought. Not yet an arm’s length.
My eyes stole a glance at my desk. Monitor… Hole puncher… Namecards… Paperclips…
They took another step forward. One more step to enter the “handshake zone”.
“This here is our new colleague, Miss X. She’ll be assigned to blah blah…” I looked at her and smiled, while my brain is racing to come up with some kind of evasive maneuver.
Namecards… My mind was on to something.
They took another step forward. An arm’s length.
She smiled, and I can see she was about to extend her arm. I quickly took one of my namecards and said,
“Oh so you’ll be working with them doing blah blah. I am xxx. And here’s my card. I’m a blah blah doing blah blah…”
Her extended hand naturally took my card.
The ultimate fool-proof tool to avoid handshakes at any cost. No acting, and best of all no explanations. (Image credit)
“So which project exactly will you be working on? Where were you at before this?” I continued with (honest) questions and pointed out my contact details on the card for – probably – future collaborations.
We talked, and a few minutes later they left. Sans the handshake.
So that’s the best tool to avoid any handshaking for whatever reason it may be. A namecard and perfect timing. And then talk.
Take some with you wherever you go. Whatever the situation, just make sure your hands are holding on to something. Like at a dinner party where a namecard is seemingly out of place, a plate of food on your left hand and a fork or your right would save you from the awkward handshake-avoiding moments.
And save the elaborate explanations when you know that person better.
For the uninitiated, Muslims are not supposed to come into physical contact with the opposite sex. It’s a matter of religious preference. And when one chooses to abide by religious principles, it is a big deal.
It’s thus no surprise that acting like a monk in these modern times is trying. It is especially tricky when dealing with colleagues and acquaintances who are not aware of this no-contact-between-opposite-sex observance.
The most common physical contact between a male and female is hand-shaking. While some may see it as a physical representation of verbal greetings, it presents an opportunity for momentary weirdness to ensue.
Example: Imagine a Muslim man who wants to follow the virtues of his religion, happily prancing into a meeting. In this instance, say he is meeting with a female delegate. In his mind, “I’m not supposed to touch females. I’m gonna just say hello and sit.” In her mind, “Ah, here’s the guy I’m meeting. Better shake hands.”
Once the female extends her hand to shake, the Muslim male has a split-second decision to make: (1) avoid physical contact and risk embarrassing your counterpart, or (2) just shake her hand and ignore your principles. And yes, remember that principles are what you are made of.
Of course, it is much easier if the Muslim here is a head of state, in which those who wants to meet him will be briefed on the religious decorum and cultural preferences. But chances are, the Muslim you are meeting is not one of the 194 heads of states. 195 if you include the Vatican. 196 Palestine.
I’ve personally seen such instances when my male Muslim friends try their best to avoid hand-shaking. It usually goes something like this:
Female: Hi, nice to meet you. (Extends hand to shake)
Male Muslim: Nice to meet you. (Hesitates to extend hand)
Female: Urmm.. (Smiles awkwardly. Embarrassed. Pulls hand away.)
Male Muslim: … (At that exact moment changes his mind and extends his hand for exactly 0.5 seconds)
Female: *Sigh of relief* (Extends hand to shake)
Male Muslim: … (And by this time 0.5 seconds is up and he pulls back his hand)
And all this happening in a mere 3-second time frame, to set a shaky start to your meeting.
Looking back at such scenarios, I think it’s time we have a guide to prepare for what may happen in the initial 3 to 4.5 seconds of a meeting. So here is my essential guide to avoid embarrassing scenarios in hand-shaking.
The Definitive Guide to Avoid Handshakes (from a male Muslim perspective)
1. It is all about the timing, and it starts before you meet the person. Make sure your impression reflects your stance. No, I do not mean wearing a turban with long robe and a walking cane in hand, but more along the lines of your body language.
2. When you come into the room, or make eye contact with the opposite gender for the first time, exchange verbal greetings, and immediately make sure your hands do not even seem like it is going to extend into a handshake position. Instead, when you say “Hello, nice to meet you,” just give a slight nod of acknowledgment to welcome the opposite gender. (Fig 1)
Fig. 1: Illustration of “no hands”+”the slight nod”. Credit: AwkwardRules.net
Fig. 2: Nod a second too long and you’ll send the totally opposite signal.
3. This pre-emptive combo move should mildly send a message to your female counterpart that you would prefer not to shake hands.
4. It’s not over yet. This is when you should be most alert. Sometimes your counterpart might be thinking about sushi/Bali/Mr Pitt and be totally unaware of the delicate signals that you are sending.
5. If you see any movement that even slightly indicates she wants to extend her hand, act fast. The faster you act, the faster she can decide, and the lesser the chance of any embarrassing handshake rejection. Acting quickly, you have three choices:
a. Act Authoritative: Insist that she remain where she is while you look for your seat/someone else. This can be easily achieved by saying “No” and covering it with another sentence. For example, you see she’s about to extend her hand. So you extend both your hands, palms downward, and say in a baritone voice, “No, please remain seated *smile*… Now where’s my seat again?”
Fig. 3: Unfortunately, the Vulcan salute is not an option here.
b. Act ‘Blur’ (local slang for playing innocent): Pretend you do not see her wanting to shake your hand, and quickly turn your back to find your seat (assuming your seat is not in your field of vision).
c. Act Classy: Once she’s about to extend her hand, immediately put your right hand over your heart, signaling that you are not going to extend your hand.
Fig. 4: Remember boys and girls, hand-over-heart is a polite gesture of sincerity. You can get away from a handshake by doing this and that slight nod of acknowledgment.
6. Once the meeting is over, cunningly repeat steps 1-5 to avoid another handshake.
How do you gracefully avoid such situations? Comments and suggestions welcome.