Youth gives handshakes the kiss-off

REACHING out to shake hands is regarded as essential etiquette recognised worldwide as a gesture of trust.

But a survey now says that young people prefer to touch fists, air kiss or wave instead.

Researchers said that as much social contact happens via social networking online there are fewer actual face-to-face opportunities for handshaking to thrive.

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The custom, dating back to medieval times, to let knights to show they were unarmed, is seen as too formal for younger adults.

A poll of 1,000 adults found that shaking hands is diminishing with each generation with 74 per cent admitting they shake hands less than they used to.

While a clear majority of 69 per cent of the over-25s still use the handshake to meet and greet, only 45 per cent of under-25s do the same, the survey by Carex, a hand-wash brand, found.

Although touching fists has become almost universal after West Indian cricketers were seen using the gesture after they struck a boundary, the celebratory gesture between Barack Obama and his wife in June 2008 was criticised by right-wing American commentators a "terrorist fist jab".

Dr David Holmes of Manchester Metropolitan University, who conducted the research, backs the handshake, and said: "In our evolutionary past, touch was the foundation of families and civilised coexistence, helping to reduce stress, violence and dissent.

He added: "It is one of the most powerful forms of public touch that can be used in society today and it can leave a lasting impression on those touched."

Jo Bryant, of Debrett's, the etiquette bible, said: "I think there are plenty of situations where the handshake is important, such as meeting older people or in a formal interview situation.

"Younger people are growing up in a less formal society where the normal forms of communication is more technological and includes mobile phones and texting. But for years and years a firm handshake with eye-to-eye contact has been a gesture of trust conveying a lot in its body language. We have a limited number of ways of making physical contact with others which are not too intimate and it would be nice to think we appreciate it."

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Professor Patrick O'Donnell of the department of psychology at the University of Glasgow, said: "The handshake dying out can only be seen as a loss, particularly among the young, if you are certain it was something we did before.

"In the UK we have always been rather awkward and physically distant about this sort of thing and in Scotland many regarded it as definitely 'not on'.

"While shaking hands and skin contact can be seen as bonding it tends to be used in very formal situations in business and when signing deals.

"Younger people doing something like touching fists may in fact be doing something more meaningful because it is a genuine gesture of affection."

Greetings that will deliver a warm welcome or a slight of hand

DR DAVID Holmes, of Manchester Metropolitan University, claims a number of handshakes reveal the personality traits of the shaker.

• The Shake and Shaker – where the handshake is followed by a kiss to suggest a closer relationship. Used by TV interviewer Jonathan Ross.

• The Wrist Locker – a powerful grip used by Sir Alex Ferguson and others in positions of authority as a sign of dominance and control.

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• The Perpetual Pumper – a vigorous, constant shaking that is meant to relax the other person by giving them the impression they are a lifelong friend – typically used by George Bush.

• The Hanger-On – where contact is maintained for longer as an extra display of the personal touch and to gain trust and affection in return. Cricketer Andrew Flintoff uses this style.

• The Single Sting is the type President Barack Obama relies on – a quick, formal shake which may seem terse but allows a lot more hands to be shaken and maintains a business-like feel.

• The Back Slapper – where the handshake is accompanied by a slap on the back at the same time, such as that used by Simon Cowell. While it may seem friendly, it is actually showing dominance and is popular with gangland bosses and the military for the same reason.

• Finally there is The Snub – where a proffered handshake is not met by the other person as a way of expressing disgust or distaste. Seen as a gesture of defiance.