The Sight Behind the Shake

Odds are, everyone has shaken someone’s hand at least once before in the past. We do it when we meet someone new, at the beginning and end of business transactions, and when we say hello to friends. Throughout the years, people have come up with a number of  variations of the traditional handshake. Many people even have specific handshakes for every person or occasion of the day. But what is the real meaning of a handshake?

The handshake can be dated back as far as 5th century BC in ancient Greece. In medieval times, a knight would extend a bare hand to another knight as a mutual sign of peace and respect. This was to demonstrate that the knight did not have a weapon in his hand and meant no harm to the other person. In times before written contracts, any aspect of life could be agreed upon by shaking hands: massive agreements on land, politics etc. The hand shake meant more than just a casual greeting. By shaking hands, men (and women) gave their word that they would adhere to all the regulations and terms of the agreement that they had previously established. The simple act of clutching another man’s hand was a binding agreement. There was no need for a written contract because the men’s honor was at stake if they broke the agreement.

In this era, we have seen the advent of the “finger-crossed” mentality. I have seen this mentality a lot with children. They will come to an agreement and then the agreement is broken and one of the children will yell, “Nuh uh! I had my fingers crossed!” This does not change when these children grow up. Many people try to find the easy way out after making an agreement.

So, why does this matter? I believe the handshake has been degraded and has become near meaningless is a very strong allegory for the direction of many people in the world today. People today believe in the “by any means necessary” mentality of living. We have lost respect for other individuals and worry more about money than we do about personal honor and accountability. This is why we are forced to sign air-tight contracts and legal documents to make sure we stay in line with the agreement. If we could return to the days where we could work respectfully with each other and where our honor means more to us than other things, we could become a much better civilization.

The Sight Behind the Shake

The Infamous Pyramid

             Possibly the most cited and referenced psychological model is that of Abraham H. Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. Any individual who takes an introductory course in psychology and even business class will more than likely hear about Maslow’s pyramid of needs. From that point on you can never outrun it. Maslow first introduced his pyramid in 1943, but further expanded on the model in Motivation and Personality, which he published in 1954. Maslow centered his motivation model off studies he performed on the lives of people such as Fredrick Douglas, Albert Einstein, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

            Maslow’s hierarchy proposes a 5-layer model of human needs. Each need must be met before the next need can be dealt with. The first four levels are physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem. These needs are referred to as “deficiency needs.” The pinnacle of the model is “self-actualization,” which can only be met after the other four are fully met.

            The first layer of Maslow’s pyramid is “physiological needs.” Things such as shelter, food, water, and reproduction are all put under this layer. Once these needs are met then you can move on to satisfying “safety needs.” These include personal security, health/wellbeing, and financial security. After “safety” comes “love and belonging needs.” This layer deals with emotions and relationships. This includes love, friendship/family, and intimacy. The second highest level is esteem. This layer deals with people’s desire to be accepted and valued by their peers.

            All humans desire to succeed and fulfill, or find, their purpose in life. This can also be called “self-actualization.” “Self-actualization” is the top level of Maslow’s model. It is the desire to maximize and reach their full potential. It is still debatable whether “self-actualization” is actually possible, and whether the hierarchy is accurate at all. However, it is vastly agreed upon that Maslow laid a fascinating and intriguing foundation for studying and understanding human motivation.

Why It Matters:

            Maslow’s hierarchy is possibly the most cited model in psychological, motivational, and even educational realms. Many people are skeptical of the hierarchy and question its validity because it has been stretched and modified to fit into different plans, ideas, and theories. Whether the model is valid or not, it gives a phenomenal framework from in which future psychologists can build their own theories and models. Maslow opened up the human psyche and began to explain what drives humans at the most basic and fundamental levels.

The Infamous Pyramid