I believe that a handshake is an unspoken gesture that speaks volumes about an individual. As a businesswoman, when I am given the opportunity to shake someone’s hand the strength of their handshake and level of eye contact sets the tone for my initial opinion of that person.
A quick, weak handshake with brief eye contact immediately raises the bar for the level of professionalism, experience and expertise I will seek out in other aspects of their performance. Though, a strong handshake with confident eye contact creates an immediate image of strength, professionalism and belief in oneself.
Sadly, I encounter more weak handshakes over the course of a week than the later. It’s both surprising and disappointing to see this as the culture I grew up in dictated that the handshake was a vital component of communication in all walks of life.
In the late ‘80s as a golf loving girl of eight years old I was a minority. Most golf camps didn’t start until age 10 and would typically only have boys register to attend. Many adults didn’t want to play in a group with a girl of my age and many of the tee time holders assumed that I was just ‘along for the ride’ to watch my dad play golf.
What started to set me apart and change their image was my demeanor and ability to ‘quick draw’ my hand out for an introduction or thank you to fellow golfers, club professionals and tee time holders.
The positive impression I left on these individuals shifted their assumptions and camps began to make an exception for my age and let me participate, the seniors group that played every morning all summer long began quarreling over who wanted me in their group and I was no longer ‘along for the ride’.
All deriving from a simple handshake, eye contact, smile and thank you.
In my era of junior golf, the tournament officials and camp counselors did a fantastic job of encouraging participants to shake hands amongst themselves, to thank the volunteers, to seek out the head pro and say thank you for letting us play their facility.
They even would take it a step farther and require us to give a speech at the end of the tournament no matter if we were holding the 3rd place trophy or crowned champion.
This concept kept me up at night before the final round. It didn’t matter if I was ten strokes back or winning by ten, my brain was racing to practice how I would deliver my speech the following day.
The initial mandatory behavior defined by my parents and grandparents while at a golf facility mixed with the guidelines set by my our junior golf mentors helped shape my ability to present myself in a positive light both on and off a golf course. The smile I would gain from the adult on the receiving end was enough encouragement to keep shaking hands, keep saying thank you and keep playing.
Today, The First Tee has incorporated handshakes and introductions into their weekly curriculum plan for all five levels of programming. This not only shows the importance of delivery but helps pull shy insecure participants out of their shell, creates a bridge for communication between individuals of all ages and backgrounds and sets the tone in showing respect for others.
Parents, volunteers and spectators have commented that they can point out a participant of The First Tee from a crowd of young adults just by watching their demeanor and ability to communicate with another individuals.
Consider this. Do you feel that young people today are doing a good job at introducing themselves to adults and advisors? Do you want them to be good?
My answer is yes. It’s our intent at The First Tee of the Sandhills to create a culture for participants to learn these behaviors and be empowered to use them outside of their visit to us on a weekly basis. Remember, the best way for a child to learn is from seeing adults do it first!
So what’s your take?