What Is a Virtual Handshake?

In my Virtual Handshake Network on Ryze, Lamar Morgan asked me to define “a virtual handshake”. This is a great question, and considering the many, many hours David Teten and I sent brainstorming titles (I think we came up with over 200 candidates), it seems appropriate to offer an explanation.

In a business context, the handshake is the universal hello/goodbye (OK, at least in most Western cultures). We shake hands when we first meet people. We shake hands when we first see them again, and usually when we part. When you think about it, almost all of our face-to-face business interaction with people we see infrequently, i.e., not our co-workers, is framed by handshakes.

Moving deeper into the metaphor, historically, the handshake was a gesture of trust. By placing my hand outstretched to you, rather than on my sword hilt, I’m signalling that I want to greet you, not kill you, and that I trust you to do the same. The latter part is particularly important — it’s not just that I am being peaceful/civil, it’s that I trust you to be, as well.

So more than just being a universal greeting, the handshake is a universal symbol of trust. It seems that many people feel that the most difficult aspect of virtual relationships is the matter of building trust, and since so much of our book is about how to build trust virtually, it seemed a particularly appropriate metaphor. What we try to do is show people how to frame their virtual interactions in ways that build trust.

Of course, we also liked the fact that “virtual handshake” is an oxymoron. Oxymorons tend to make people think, and tend to be memorable. We figure any time anyone spends more than half a second thinking about the title of our book, that’s a good thing.