© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.”
That is certainly true and President Obama recently said about Iran’s leaders:
“Faced with an extended hand, Iran’s leaders have shown only a clenched fist.”
The words paint a vivid picture. I wonder how often each of us encounters a situation that is similar. We extend an olive branch to a loved one who cannot find it in his/her heart to reach back to us. I’ve heard many people talk about going home for a holiday event and being disappointed with the results. They went home hoping for a hug or a handshake, and left with an empty heart and hand. Many people just will not give peace a chance.
It caused me to think about the communication styles required to sow peace and that lead to me thinking about those times when folks speak through a clenched jaw. Can we really believe that truth was told when that is the case? Can we expect good will to follow? There is very little chance that peace is on the horizon. That’s the time to stay with the conversation and continue to work towards and negotiate a solution that is truly equitable for both parties. Folks often want to cut and run when they think they are at an advantage. The jaw of the other is still clenched and little good with come from it. Take the time to listen to each other and stick with it long enough to get to the underlying interests they are negotiating from, not just the presenting requests/demands they are making. The Why a person wants what they want is so much more valuable to know that simply what they want.
The handshake is said to have had its origins in medieval Europe as people reached out their hands to each other to demonstrate they were not holding a weapon.
Handshakes have to be honest symbols of agreement, reaching out to demonstrate valued connection. We’ve all shaken hands with someone who was doing it because they should. That’s like smiling with your mouth while your eyes are cold.There is the feeling that they are shaking your hand with their other fingers crossed behind their backs.
It is impossible to shake hands with a clenched fist. It is possible, however, to take charge and open your hand to new possibilities, new beginnings and new relationships. That’s the way we Sow Peace™.