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When you visit companies in Japan you are often struck by the formality of
business introductions. First, meetings have to be carefully "arranged" so that
the right people meet, at the right time, and in the right setting. Impromptu
meetings are typically avoided but when the occasion arises they can also turn
rather formal. Normally, a third person is charged with making the introductions
and his or her words are chosen carefully to denote superior/subordinate
relationships. Business cards are not just carelessly exchanged but rather
formally presented in a certain manner. It is also quite common to exchange
small gifts to commemorate the event. There is also, of course, a lot of bowing
as well as firm handshakes.
The Japanese consider introductions to be a very important part of
establishing business relations and takes it all very seriously. In contrast,
Americans tend to be much more cavalier in their approach to personal
introductions. It wasn't always like this. In fact, at one time it was almost as
formal as the Japanese, but this has changed radically over the years.
In terms of handshakes, we still have the "glad hander" which is typically
used by politicians as they work the crowd. The idea is to try and shake as many
hands as possible, as fast as possible. The "glad hander" approach is not very
sincere as the person rarely looks the other in the eye. Instead, he or she is
just going through the mechanics of the handshake.
Of course, we still have people who offer a "vice grip" handshake as a form
of intimidation, as well as the "milk toast" shake representing the weakling.
Both of these still leave a lot to be desired. Most Americans just want a simple
and sincere handshake when meeting a person along with some eye contact to
But recently, I experienced a new type of handshake which I like to call the
"Cool Dude." This was from a young person who I judged to be in his early to mid
20's. The introduction came at an industry association meeting held after work
at a hotel. As I was introduced to the young person by my host, the young man
swung his right arm way back before extending his hand to offer a rather quick
and superficial handshake. I also observed he avoided eye contact as I presumed
he considered himself to be "too cool" to do so. Instead of a good "How do you
do?" I was treated to a "Wassup?" Frankly, I was taken aback by the "Cool Dude"
as it struck me as something I might see on Comedy Central, but not in a
This all made me wonder what kind of message the young man thought he was
conveying. Was he too cool for a proper introduction or was this representative
of the way young people introduce themselves these days? Whatever it was, it
certainly put me off and the young man immediately lost all credibility with me.
I guess I'm "old school" as I believe in the value of introductions; maybe
not to the level of formality as practiced in Japan, but I appreciate the
necessity of them. The intent is to set people off on the same level and to
develop a rapport. But if the "Cool Dude" is the shape of things to come, I see
some real social problems emerging in the years ahead. I guess the next thing
will be no more handshakes whatsoever and we'll just touch mechanical devices
together (like cell phones) in order to exchange introductory data. God how I
miss the 20th century.
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.
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About the Author
Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of
M. Bryce & Associates
(MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the field.
He can be reached at
Copyright © 2008 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-05-08 22:00:23 in Business Articles