People think that if you are a woman, you can shake hands with a man while you are sitting down. It is of utmost importance that you recognize that the person coming over to shake your hand, is honoring you by doing so. The least you can do is stand up and let him or her know that the feeling of respect is mutual. And it should also be emphasized that if the man is much older than you, and you are half his age or whatever, it is downright rude to be sitting while he extends his hand.
Having said that, I should add, that shaking hands in and of itself is not very cool. YUP! You don’t know if the person has coughed in his hand, wiped the thook off his lips, (gross) or sneezed into his palms. So what should we do? I will tell you what I do. I usually reach for the person’s arm and if I know him well, tell him, “Oh let me hug you”, and barely touch my neck to his shoulder; and if that doesn’t happen, I use the nearest restroom to wash my hands out. And this leads me to say how good it is to do the ‘adaab’ and the ‘salam’ and touch your own heart, as we do in the Islamic culture or the Namaste in India, to let the person know what a delight it is to see/meet him/her.
Another lesson I have learned is to stand up when the doctor enters the office to talk to you before examination. There was a lady who was my patient. A very beautiful and elegant Austrian lady who obviously came from a very cultured and sophisticated background. She was much much older than me. Every time I went into the office, she would instantly stand up and greet me with a “Hello Dr. Ali, it is good to see you.” Her elegance made a lasting impression on me. I would tell her she didn’t have to stand up, and she would smile at me benevolently and with a tilt of her head, tell me, “Your education has to be respected. Please don’t mind me standing up.” I have always stood up any time I have gone to see a physician, whether it be a general practitioner or a specialist. It is always good to see people who are respectful.
Social rules guide us as to how we interact with others. The foundation should be set in childhood itself. It is so important for us to teach our children to respect older people and address them properly. I know a couple of kids who are teenagers and they cannot even open their mouths to say a proper greeting. If the kids are ill behaved, then do not take them to places where you would be embarrassed.
Taking turns to talk, and listening to a person while she/he is talking, is very important. You cannot monopolize the conversation. Nothing is more appalling and atrocious and rude than to have someone go on and on about their own life and history, while you try to suppress the yawns. There is a finesse in keeping a conversation going. Try to involve the other person in the conversation, and if you don’t do that, you will look like the world’s most narcissistic individual. Seriously!