Views and Visions: Can’t touch this Part 1

Category : Human Interest

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. clenched fist / klɛntʃt fɪst / (n.) – a hand in a tightly closed position

    The old man angrily waved his clenched fist at the noisy children.

  2. awkward / ˈɔk wərd / (adj.) – moving or doing something in a way that’s not natural, relaxed, or confident

    The bow I did to the CEO felt really awkward. I think I need to practice more.

  3. binding / ˈbaɪn dɪŋ / (adj.) – cannot be legally broken or stopped and must be obeyed or kept

    The contract is legally binding, so if you break it, you’ll probably be sued.

  4. take (something) too far / teɪk tu fɑr / (idiom) – to overdo something or go over the limit

    Vanessa cried because Will took his jokes too far.

  5. squeeze / skwiz / (n.) – the act of pressing something with one’s hands

    She gave his arm a hard squeeze.


Read the text below.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” Remember handshakes? Before all my classes moved to being online, I taught my Japanese students the importance of handshakes. From my experience, people who aren’t used to giving handshakes run the risk of giving ones that are uncomfortable and awkward. “Like a cold, dead fish” has been the harshest comment I’ve heard about someone’s handshake.

Making skin-to-skin contact with someone you’ve only just met might seem a bit strange. However, this small act of physically connecting with someone can make or break a first impression. Does the other person feel supported by your handshake? Or do they feel dominated by it? I’ve asked my Japanese students to think about when someone bows to them. How do they feel if it’s a deep bow? A mere nod of the head?

A firm handshake is also a sign of trust. The expression “Let’s shake on it” can be as binding as a hanko personal seal. While practising handshakes, some of my students took this too far and thought the goal was to crush the other person’s hand. I told them that all they need to do is match the strength of their partner’s squeeze. (Samantha Loong)

To be continued…

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The author says that people who aren’t used to giving handshakes run the risk of giving ones that are uncomfortable and awkward. In your opinion, what makes a handshake uncomfortable and awkward (ex. too long, too strong)? Why? Discuss.
  • Do you think it’s okay to judge people by how they shake hands or bow? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • The author taught her students how to shake hands properly. In your opinion, is it important to take lessons on how to shake hands or bow properly, or are those things that can be learned from experience? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • The author says that a firm handshake can be as binding as a hanko personal seal. Do you agree? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Some say handshakes were originally a gesture of peace meant to show that you were not holding a weapon. What do you think about that? Discuss.
  • Handshaking is generally done more in western countries, while bowing is done more in Asian countries. When traveling abroad, is it better to adapt to the local customs, or is it less awkward to just keep following your own customs? Why? Discuss.
Category : Human Interest