Once upon a time, a verbal commitment was all the acknowledgement needed in a binding pact. An agreement was struck, hands were shook and the deal sealed. Today a library of paper work is signed, witnessed and scrutinized right down to the size 4 print. People who give you a verbal commitment and bind that agreement with a handshake without need for pin striped scavengers are few and far in between.
The handshake has humble beginnings. It’s reported that ancient texts and archaeological ruins depict soldiers ‘shaking hands’ in an illustration of goodwill bearing no arms. A peaceful gesture.. a gesture that conveys trust, equality or in the sporting arena ‘good sportsmanship’. It is a widely accepted social norm that men judge other men on the strength of their handshake. A flimsy or pathetic handshake is a disastrous beacon of pathetic character. If superficial judgements can be based on looks, then men judge other men on their handshake. A flimsy handshake immediately illustrates a lack of respect, interest and a dismissive nature. It’s a red rag to a bull that often creates a stunning superficial judgement that the consummate business or personal greeting amongst men, especially in Western society, can be taken lightly by the proponent of the flimsy greeting.
As an impressionable young boy, I was taught the merit of the Latin quote “meum pactum dictum” or “my word is my bond”. I believe the quote to my very core and was taught and shown its meaning through my father, my grandfather and predominately 1940’s, 1950’s and early 1960’s cinema via legendary American director Cecil B. DeMille and actors Charlton Heston and Victor Mature. The movies that immediately spring to mind are Samson & Delilah (1949), The Ten Commandments (1956), Ben Hur (1959) and El Cid (1961). In more recent times Liam Neeson’s character (Robert MacGregor) in the motion picture Rob Roy (1995) struck accord with me in that the film displayed a man committed to honoring his word and name, even to his detriment. What captivated me was the strong male characters who valued their own self opinion and morals enough to honor themselves and the people they committed too no matter what the cost.
During an excursion to Perth’s nightlife society to celebrate a birthday, I had arranged a lift with a friend after a night out. An agreement was struck and text messages exchanged. Forty minutes after the designated pick up time, I jumped into a taxi. The friend had conveniently decided the agreement did not exist, even in light of a verbal agreement and exchanged text messages to pursue a different course through the night. A trip that should have taken 5 minutes to walk to his car and return to collect me never eventuated. I sat out the front of the nightspot chatting with friends questioning the merit of this person’s regard for our friendship. It lead me to question the value of a handshake and a verbal agreement in today’s society. If a friend can do that to a friend, logic dictates that a complete stranger could perform the same act of disrespect without battering an eye lid.
Has the fabric of society deteriorated through business lawyers love for red tape, bureaucracy and logging of trees that verbal agreements sealed with handshakes no longer exist. Is there that little faith in the person standing next to you that a piece of paper needs to be signed, witnessed and approved by someone wearing Christian Dior socks and crocodile leather shoes miles away? Are we that bombarded with messages of untrustworthiness that our only option is to sign our life away and dismiss the comment “in good faith”? What’s even more laughable is the comment “the contract isn’t worth the paper it’s signed on”. That’s the most worrying concept for mine.
I would like to believe that people who know me understand my core values (mostly learnt and copied from my father) and that I have proven that through my actions . A verbal commitment and a handshake is a binding agreement in the world I live in. Call me crazy , old fashioned or outdated but that’s what I believe in. If you don’t have respect for your own word, then what respect or perception of respect will others have for you?
I’m not proposing sweeping social change nor am I suggesting my values are the right ones and the world would be a better place for it, what I am suggesting is that if the ‘word’ can be considered a person’s bond and the handshake is the first impression and the closing action… treat them and the people they involve with the respect they deserve. After all.. nobody likes to be disappointed.