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The Handshake - for Win-Wins, Intimacy and World Peace

Remember the children's song, "head, shoulders, knees and toes"? No? That's ok.

This week we'll explore a new song: The Handshake Song

We can use The Handshake Song for lots of things! We can use it to deepen intimacy with others (not sex, intimacy, emotional intimacy). We can use it to help get win-win cooperation. We can use it to make a world that works better for everyone.

Here's how The Handshake Song goes:

The Handshake Song

Verse 1

Head, heart, gut, extend a handshake

Verse 2

Acknowledge, apologize, adjust.

Verse 3

Head, heart, gut, extend a handshake

Verse 4

Acknowledge, apologize, adjust.

Simple, right?

Got it? No? Ok, let's work through it.

In life, sometimes we don't listen to each other or help each other because of lots of reasons. Mostly, those reasons boil down to fear.

In the jungle, when animals are afraid, what do they do? They fight, freeze, or run away (flight).

Sometimes we are like animals in the jungle. When we feel nervous, we fight, or we freeze, or we try to get out of there!

But did you know there's another option?

In The Handshake Song, we have a new way to deal with our fear.

To start with, we can just be there, relax and breathe.

In a moment when someone is unhappy with you, just breathing and relaxing there takes practice. If you breathe, and relax, then you can help slow things down. You can help reduce tension. When we just stand there and breathe, we can acknowledge the other person's values, and even apologize (because hey, none of us are perfect, especially not at relationship dances). When we slow down, we can adjust.

Once we are relaxing and breathing, how do we use The Handshake Song?

Here's an example:

Imagine someone in a restaurant bumps you and steps on your toes. Of these three options, which one would you like better:

1. The toe-stepper shouts, "Hey, get out of the way!"

2. The toe-stepper says, "Oh sorry about that, I didn't mean to hurt you."

3. The toe-stepper says, "What, I didn't step on your toe."

For me, I prefer option #2. Even if the person didn't intend to step on my toes, it's kind and considerate of them to apologize, even though they didn't mean to step on me. The apology isn't about blame, it's about consideration. Saying sorry shows that he is considering my feelings too.

When someone confronts us with something, unconsciously they're trying to get an emotional handshake. In relationships practicing authentic connection and resolution, it helps to apologize, even (especially) if we didn't intend harm, because it expresses concern and consideration for the other.

In The Handshake Song, when we're confronted by someone, it's Verse 1.

Verse 2 (the response) goes like this: Acknowledge, Apologize, Adjust.

Now what if you're the person who needs to do the confronting? What if someone (deliberately or accidentally) stepped on your toes?

To avoid an argument, it might help to try The Handshake Song: Head, heart, gut, extend a handshake.

What does this mean?

Let's start with the "head" part of the verse. Notice in your head the things you are thinking and might want to say. Notice how these sound:

- Name-calling - "Jerk!!"

- Shoulding on them - "You shouldn't have done that!"

- Emotional Drive-by Shooting - "That Really HURT!!!"

- Cynic's Retort - "People are just mean nowadays."

Unfortunately, the head can say lots of things that don't resolve anything. Some people call this the "monkey mind". In fact, sometimes the things the monkey-mind/head wants to say things can actually make things worse.

So instead, in The Handshake Song, we translate the head through the heart and gut (your core values), and then make a request (this is the handshake part). Feel how that goes. Put your hand on your head, notice your thoughts, then move your hand down to your heart, then your belly, then extend your hand in a handshake gesture. Notice how the gesture looks in this example, the head translated first into the heart, and so on:

"That really hurt; I'd like care that I'm here, too. Could you please move over a little bit?"

Did you follow the way that was "heart, gut, handshake offer"?

Here's the trick though - not everyone will accept your handshake offer the first time around. They might get scared and try to fight, flee or freeze. Don't give up, just hang in there. No matter what they do, try to coming back to requesting that handshake:

"Ow, that hurt, please skootch left a bit?"

"What, I didn't do anything." (Not accepting the handshake.)

"Ok, no problem. But I'm a bit squashed here, could you please back up a little bit?"

Now you have made the request again - this is like extending the handshake a second time.

Now watch to see if the other person takes it.

"I was just standing here. You take up a lot of space too!" (Defending, Deflecting)

Since they still have not reached back to shake your hand (verse 2), it's time to try verse 1 again.

"While that may be true, we can talk about that after we finish this. Could you tell me what would stop you from moving a little bit to the side?"

In this case, a step toward a handshake is first the "acknowledgement" part of the verse. By saying, "if you won't shake my hand, could you tell me why not," it gives the other person a chance to talk about what is stopping them, so that you can shake hands to help them, which will help them shake hands to help you.

Using The Handshake Song, you just keep doing Verse 1 until you get Verse 2. Soon, you will get the handshake back:

"Sorry about that. I didn't mean it. There you go." (Acknowledge, Apologize, Adjust.)

The challenge with using The Handshake Song, is that most of us have a Nervous Dog aspect inside of us.

When we were young, we were yelled at, punished, and ridiculed. This turned a part of our heart into The Nervous Dog. The Nervous Dog is afraid of punishment, doesn't want to suffer the pain of ridicule or being put down, or blamed, or rejected. So to avoid ever being a target of blame, the Nervous Dog gets defensive, denies, explains itself, deflects onto you or changes the topic to the past or the future. Some Nervous Dogs even bite by throwing ridicule or throwing sour grapes. But behind all the jittery behavior, the Nervous Dog just wants to be seen for its innocence.

If we learn that the Nervous Dog is just acting out of fear, we can just stand there, breathe, and give another go at The Handshake Song.

Here's another example of The Handshake Song in action, I also like to call this an opportunity for a Paranoia check (balancing our projections):

Sam: You asked me out for a date in two weeks from today. Why not sooner?

Chris: I thought I should give you proper notice. (Projection)

Sam: Oh I see. I can hear the care in that. In the future, would you be willing to initiate with what you want and check with me about my needs?

Chris: Hm. Yeah, I can see where I was making up a story about you instead of just asking you. Sure. Thanks for the feedback.

(Note how Chris acknowledged Sam's bite, took it in, and adjusted.)

Wouldn't it be wonderful if all wrinkles could be ironed out this easily?

Since not all Handshakes go this smoothly, let's try another example of The Handshake Song. This one is about a broken agreement:

Chris - It's 6:20, I understood we were meeting at 6.

(Notice that Chris did the "head" part, but forgot to do the heart, gut or handshake by naming a value and making a request.)

Sam - Well there was traffic.

(See the Nervous Dog? Sam just explained, instead of acknowledging Chris's concern.)

Chris - I can understand that. Traffic happens. Meanwhile, I'd like care for my (heart, time, concerns) even when there's traffic. If you're going to be late, could you please text me before being late so that I know what's going on.

(Notice the value and request here! So now that we finished Verse 1, let's see if we get to Verse 2.)

Sam - Well you're late sometimes too.

(Ooops. Deflecting. Now it's up to Chris to notice tht the handshake failed. There's no acknowledgement, and certainly no heart connection.)

Chris: Thank you, I get you have an issue with me you'd like to iron out too. We can talk about that next. Meanwhile, I'd like resolution about the subject I started with. Can you (see, feel, get, understand) how it might be confusing for me to not see you at 6pm when we agreed to 6pm?

(Notice here, Chris changed from the first handshake, to a baby-step. If Sam didn't acknowledge, apologize and adjust, can Chris at least get an acknowledgement?)

Sam: (Takes a breath.) Yeah, I can see how you might feel that way.

(Notice this acknowledgement indicates a bit of heart-connection from Sam about Chris's core values. Now with that acknowledgement, Chris can try for the apology and adjustment.)

Chris: Thank you. Next time, if you're not likely to make the time we agreed on, could you please text me that, so that I'm in the loop?

Sam - (Feels grief and humility, but has the maturity to get that we are all human and need to learn how to dance with each other in ways that work for everyone.) Sure, no problem.

(Here, Chris might see Sam's shift, which closes the loop on apology, because Sam adjusted.)

Hopefully this will work out better for Sam and Chris moving forward.

But what if the topic is not so simple?

Just remember The Handshake Song:

Verse 1

Head, heart, gut, extend a handshake

Verse 2

Acknowledge, apologize, adjust.

Verse 3

Head, heart, gut, extend a handshake

Verse 4

Acknowledge, apologize, adjust.

Repeat this as many times as necessary, until both sides iron out any wrinkles that are left.

Just try to pair a value/request with a heart-felt handshake, and don't move forward until we have.

Sometimes, this means we need to navigate around the Nervous Dog a bit, so that we can get on the same page before moving forward.

Here's another example. I'll call this one, "Resolving beyond defensiveness".

Charlie: I have something I wanna iron out with you, are you free to talk for a bit?

Robin: Oh no, here we go, whatever yeah, what’s up?

Charlie: (Detecting NOT a handshake) Oh. From that, I'm getting you're not thrilled to talk to me right now. Is there something else you need before we talk?

Robin: No it's fine. What's up?

Charlie: I'm not feeling good about the dynamic between us. I'd really like simpler resolutions. For example, the other day when I asked you to tell me when you'd be free, after 12 sentences I had to ask again to get a reply. Can you understand how I might want something simpler than that?

Robin: What? I scheduled the dinner didn't I? Maybe I should just cancel it then.

Charlie: Robin wait. I'd like to resolve just this topic with you, without jumping to other subjects. I'm not sure we're on the same page. Can you please tell me back what value of mine you heard me say just now?

Robin: What?

Charlie: I want to be on the same page before anything else. Can you tell me back the core value you get I'm trying to be heard for?

Robin: Uhhhhh. No.

Charlie: Thank you. Then I'd like to try again. Ok?

Robin: Yes, go a head.

Charlie: Thank you. I'd like to see if we can have easier resolutions. For example, I'd like to ask a question once instead of four times. Can you see the beauty in quicker, simpler conversations together?

Robin: Ok yeah, I can see that. You want things easier.

Charlie: Yes, exactly. Thank you. In the future, when I ask a question, could you please try to answer my questions in 1 sentence rather than 12?

Robin: Well you don't do that!

Charlie: That may be true. I'm happy to iron out your issues with me when you initiate them. Meanwhile, right now I'm trying to iron this one out with you. Could you try to answer my questions in 1 sentence rather than 12?

Robin: (sour tone) Yeah.

Charlie: (not detecting an authentic acknowledgement, apology or adjustment) I'm not confident we're really connected about this right now. Do you want to tell me what's going on for you?

Robin: I think we just have a misunderstanding. I got the dinner reservation done. We're fine. It's not that big of a deal.

Charlie: (detecting the deflection, comes back to the core value and request) While that may or may not be true, the question I ask is a "yes/no" question. I'd like more ease in our conversations. In the future, would you be willing to try to answer my questions in 1 sentence rather than 12?

Robin: You just want everything your way!

Charlie: (hearing the defensive deflection) I get that you're displeased with me. If you want to talk about that, we can, after we resolve what I started with in the first place. Could you tell me back my value and request?

Robin: I hear that you want everything your way.

Charlie: Thank you. Actually, that's not it, I'd like to be heard differently. Can I try again?

Robin: What?

Charlie: I said, thank you. Actually, that's not my value and request. I'd like to be heard differently. Can I try to ask it again?

Robin: Sure.

Charlie: I would like simpler conversations between us. I'd like to receive answers to my questions in 1 round rather than 4. Before I make the request, can you appreciate that I'd like simpler conversations between us?

Robin: Ok yes, I can get that.

Charlie: Thank you. Would you be willing to help by answering my questions in 1 sentence?

Robin: Whatever, I'll try.

Charlie: (still not detecting an authentic handshake) Thank you. But I'm not entirely feeling connected with you about this. Do you want to tell me what's going on for you right now?

Robin: I don't like you telling who I am and what my intentions are.

Charlie: (detecting another subject change). I see. Can you imagine that me making a request about my own values is not talking about you, but talking about myself and my own needs?

Robin: (quiet a moment) Yeah ok.

Charlie: Thank you.

Robin: Ok. Sure.

At this point some of you might be thinking, "Oh for the Love of God just let Robin use 12 sentences."

That is definitely a choice. Each of us has to choose the level and kinds of intimacy or cooperation we want to live with. Each of us has our limitations. And, we can only get what we're willing to ask for. You'll need to choose which handshakes you'll reach for, and which handshakes you'll choose to let go.

The point of this article is to help all of us to make more handshakes more easily and more effectively. In today's society, where so many differences of culture, type and preference are leading to culture wars, couldn't we all use more heartful, connecting, cross-platform handshakes of cooperation and care? Couldn't we all use less bickering and more win-win solutions?

What does it take to have a world that works for everyone? For the world to work for everyone, we need to be willing to include each others' concerns as our own. We need to be willing to hear the innocent core values in each others' concerns. We need to be willing to collaborate with each other, in care, instead of the "not my problem" or "that'll resolve itself over there all on it's own" attitude. We need to be willing to generate solutions and resolve things instead of carrying sour grapes.

We also need to be willing to speak truth to power. When something isn't working, we need to be able to stand up for ourselves and others using these steps:

1. Name the core value and a doable request

2. Notice when there is, or is not, an authentic handshake back (acknowledgement, apology, adjustment)

3. Dog for an authentic handshake, preferably without making the other person 'wrong'

We all have habits we learned from our culture that are difficult to break. But at the heart of it, the core values within each of us can show us the Face of The Divine in ourselves and others. Meeting each other in care for all Faces of Nature, we can radically improve everyone's lives, including our own.

Hopefully, using the Handshake Song it'll help you to have more fulfilling dances with the people around you.

Here's to care for more of all of us.

Head, heart, gut, extend a handshake

Acknowledge, apologize, adjust.

All for one, and one for all!


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