When is it Appropriate To Not Shake a Man's hand.?

I am  a lawyer in a family law case, where an  ex husband's behavior is unworthy of him being labeled as a man in my opinion. His treatment both of his children and his former wife is completely despicable.  He is backed by a new wife, who makes Cruella DeVille seem like Mother Teresa. I am not prone to  hyperbole, so please believe me when I say this. I have tried many hundreds of case. This person and his wife are among the top two worse I have come across in my life.

So, we have a series of depositions coming up, with the the first  being tomorrow. I am anticipating an outstretched hand from this cretin( which may be giving him too much credit). I will not be extending mine either as an  offer or in  return, because I do not see him behaving as a man  ( or a human for that matter)

If I am asked why I wont shake his hand, I am willing to say that until he begins to behave like a man, I will not be shaking his hand. I think a hand shake acknowledges some recognition of another man's respect, and it it is not owed to each person one encounters.

Guys, do you have any opinions on this?


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When they have just coughed or sneezed into it (or you have). Or if your hands are quite full carrying something. In either instance, I apologize for not being able to.

Otherwise, few instances I can think of. 

Try standing with your hands clasped behind your back.  It's fairly neutral, as body language goes, but it keeps your hands unavailable for a handshake.  If he extends his hand, smile, maybe nod...


If asked, and *only* if you want to make a deal of it, try a comment like "A man's handshake conveys a certain level of respect.  You've not yet earned that respect from me." 


I've handled similar situations in this way, before...it usually shuts them up, and establishes a pecking order, which I suspect is your underlying goal.  It also subtly informs him that his behavior will have to improve, if he wishes to earn that respect.


REVISION:  Just realized this is during a deposition...an official meeting.  Shake his hand.  Grin and bear it, if you must.

I agree, its protocol if nothing else.  You have to show him respect even if his actions don't appear to warrant it.  If it were simply mano a mano that would be one thing, but you're acting in an official capacity here.  If he doesn't reciprocate it will be obvious, but you at least have to make the gesture or you're lowering yourself to his level, not appropriate.

Agreed. You only know part of who he is, and it's courtesy to shake a man's hand. You don't have to like the guy at all, but respect he is a person, no matter how reprehensible he might seem. Not shaking his hand (and the obviousness of the gesture not to) only makes you look bad.


I also didn't have the benefit of the full text, but I agree with Shane. You are not under any obligation to shake this man's hand. You are required to be civil to him, but not friendly. 

I broadly define shaking hands as a sign of respect/trust/cooperation/professionalism. You do it when you want to make someone see you are open to them and confident in yourself. It's a first-impression mechanism.

I can obviously see you want to make a first impression of disdain and keeping your acquaintance very, very impersonal. In that case, hands behind the back and lack of emotion displayed (as those above have suggested) would do just that and set an un-relaxed tone for the visit.

However, I do want to state what I think the consequences of putting these people down from the start. You are quite more experienced in Law than I, but still want to point this out. Placing yourself above the couple will make the deposition feel more like an interrogation on their end, since no level of trust will exist between you. Also, irrational and despicable as these people may be, they aren't going to disappear from existence once your association with them is finished, and judging by who you say they are, this couple will gossip and gossip about "that terrible lawyer" they had for this case.

If you're fine with that, then I'd say put that boy in his place so he knows he is dealing with  big consequences.

I don't even fully know what is expected of you at a deposition, but given the fact I trust you are earnest in your assessment of this pair, I side with the gentlemen telling you to not offer your hand. I see a handshake as a courtesy, not an absolute requirement.

I believe shaking a hand is a sign of respect toward that person. If you have no respect for the individual you are dealing with I wouldn't shake his hand. It has happened to me countless times in my line of work and I don't feel bad about not shaking.

are you thier lawyer or the exwifes.

I am the ex wife's lawyer. The deposition is that of a witness.  

Getting great comments here, men!


Whether you shake hands or not, I'm so glad you're her lawyer, and not his.

I'd probably take the bullet and shake his hand until the case is over.  Save the stonewalling until afterward.  It is intentionally disrespectful.  Intentionally disrespectful has its moments, and may be called for.  But, you're not doing your Client any favors unnecessarily disrespecting her opponent before the fighting is done.

I'm sure there's enough venom between them without you adding to it.  Wait until the opportune moment.  Scorch him in Court, then keep your hands in your pockets when you've got your verdict.



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