So he likes you and you know he likes you and yet when you walk over to say “hi” to him or are introduced, he won’t shake your hand. Why is that? I guess because I have written articles on body language someone (or several someones) have been searching this site for an answer to the question “why do men attracted to a woman refuse to share hands with her?”
I wish I could say the answer is simple but it’s not. I usually don’t have trouble shaking hands with people, men or women, but there are times when I prefer not to. It might be a matter of personal hygiene (I am a bit of a germ freak, although I get by with washing my hands several times a day, whereas some people absolutely will not touch you). There is no one reason why someone will not shake your hand, unless you are a man who is tall, large, and have a reputation for crushing other people’s hands when you grip them (some men do this as a “power play” to assert dominance — I usually press back firmly without trying to get into a grip match with them).
As with all body language signals, you should look for other signs of how that person is feeling before drawing any conclusions. It could be, for example, that they have been digging in the dirt or preparing slimy food, or just cleaned up a messy spill and they don’t want to risk spreading disease to you. Then again, I’ve seen some people sneeze into their hands and then extend them to others. Here is a rundown of possible explanations and I hope they help shed some light on puzzling situations but I don’t think anyone’s love life will be greatly enhanced.
He’s Shy. This is the number one assumption, in my experience. I do know from personal experience and what my friends revealed to me when I was much younger that young guys can be very intimidated by meeting girls they think are really, really cute or beautiful or sexy or gorgeous. It’s not so much that they lack self-confidence as (more likely in my opinion) they are so excited they don’t want you to know how much you affect them. This is a defensive shyness, not a “he’s afraid of the world” shyness.
A guy who is normally bold and outgoing might suddenly turn shy because he’s embarrassed or caught off guard. I remember a story a woman told my mother when I was 15. The lady (call her Mrs. Alexander although that was not her name) had four sons. The oldest Alexander son babysat for a friend’s daughter when she was about 10 years old, maybe 12. He was 17ish at the time. A few years later she came by to visit the Alexander family. She was 18ish, and some guy on a motorcycle gave her a ride.
As the girl was talking with Mrs. Alexander the oldest son (call him “David”) drove up to the house and came in. He had been out playing tennis on a hot afternoon and had worked up quite a sweat. He came in through the kitchen, saw mom talking to the girl, and froze. The girl said, “Hi, David! Remember me? You used to babysit for me!”
His hand went up to his head, swept his hair back, and he said, “Excuse me.” He ran upstairs and his mother said they could hear him clattering around in his bedroom. He came back down in a few minutes dressed neatly, all cleaned up, and wearing a cologne.
That is what I could call “hormone shyness” and it means the guy really likes what he sees and wants to make a good impression. This is, of course, the basic premise behind a lot of comedic movie and television scenes where some normally competent guy makes a complete fool out of himself.
Our self-image is important to us and we instinctively want to make a good impression on someone we’re attracted to.
Of course, some guys really are shy. They lack the self-confidence to make that good impression no matter how badly they want to. In my experience over time a lot of those turtles eventually come out of their shells but usually when they are older. In the game of meeting potential future spouses there is probably not much to hope for if the guy is not ready to become the man he will be. Once in a while a girl might be able to coax a really sensitive guy out of his shell but having known a few of these guys, I always had the impression they would rather crawl under a rock than be tutored in the ways of love by the girl they most want to be with.
He’s Culturally Inhibited. In some cultures men do not shake hands with women. This is not a sign of poor self-image. If anything it is a custom that is supposed to be respectful toward women. However, a lot of western women view this as a chauvinistic practice, and they may not share the views of the cultures that hold to this practice. Nonetheless, among many people a man touching a woman in public, if she is not part of his family, is just something a decent man does not do.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they enter into relationships is thinking they can change the other person. Men and women sometimes talk about “training” their partners. There is always a degree of willful change in behavior when two people share their lives together, but you cannot change the other person. The other person changes for you. If you want that guy to shake your hand and he is culturally inhibited you’re asking a great deal of him. He may eventually adopt western practices but it won’t happen in an instant.
He Realizes You’re Not What He Wants. It’s a funny, hormonal thing, but some guys can be attracted to and repulsed by a girl at the same time. I suppose the same can be said of women. On the one hand, the guy is obviously into you. On the other hand, there is something about you that tells him, “This is never going to happen. Do not encourage it.”
I remember a couple of women who at one time expressed great interest in me. Their interest was so obvious a brick wall would have felt like a man. But when I got to know them after a few minutes I was sure I would not be reciprocating that interest. I was actually very attracted to one of those women but she admitted to some personal habits I wanted nothing to do with. I am sure I sent her mixed signals after that, but that was just something that was never going to happen.
Of course, guys get this a lot, too. In fact, I believe men develop feelings of attraction much more often and easily than women (if I may generalize). That seems to be supported by the Coolidge Effect, where a man (such as a rooster) is able to more often perform sexually with multiple partners in a given time period than with a single partner. Young men, especially, are constantly checking out the girls. The girls quickly pass judgment on them and move on. Again, this is something that movies and television shows often highlight in scenes where the “pudgy guy” comes on to some gorgeous woman and she just shakes him off.
He might be turned on by you, but something about you warns him away. This is a perfectly natural phenomenon that cuts both ways. I am tempted to say “don’t take it personally” but to be honest, rejection ALWAYS feels personal.
He’s Self-conscious. For uncountable possible other reasons, a guy might be attracted to you but not want to shake hands with you. His wife might be coming to meet him. His girlfriend might be standing right next to you. His boss could have made a comment about you that makes him feel like he had better not make a move. He could know that his best friend is totally in love with you and he is not going to cross that line. Your ex-boyfriend could be standing behind you waving a machete, warning him away. Or maybe he saw you talking to some other guy in a very relaxed, comfortable way that made him think you’re in a relationship.
Men “cock-block” each other all the time even when they don’t have a chance with a girl (especially if they don’t have a chance with her). Some guy might have said something snarky to him, implying he will embarrass himself if he tries to get to know you. Some other guy might be sizing you up without your knowledge, sending out “this is my prey” signals to the less aggressive guys in the area (this can happen a lot in certain social situations).
For whatever reason, he is not going to shake your hand. It may be that he is passing through and will never come back. Maybe he is very ill and just not feeling well. Maybe he needs to find a restroom (loo) and take care of some pressing business. Maybe he needs to make a phone call.
He’s Thinking about Something Else. It could be he is attracted to you or it could be you have mistaken his behavior for interest in you. But sometimes a guy can be in the middle of some great dilemma and that Coolidge Effect kicks on, drawing his attention to you. He forces himself to go back to dwelling on his mission, misfortunes, or manic obsessions. He may be completely oblivious to any reciprocal interest on your part because his mind is elsewhere.
Guys can be oblivious to the most obvious “come hither” signals from women. Only later when their friends tease them about missed opportunities, or when some older, more experienced guy explains what probably happened, do they realize “Ohmigoshicouldhavegottentoknowher!” Oh well, that’s another life lesson learned for the guy.
It’s rarely like the movies, where the guy is standing across the room and sees HER, the girl of his dreams, walk around in slow motion with an orchestral soundtrack playing in his head as you laugh coyly at some innocent joke and you smile at him, your eyes aglow with the passion of curiosity and he imagines, just for a second (which feels like an eternity) that you could actually be looking at him, waving from the future of shared hopes and dreams and inviting him to come over.
Usually he just stands and stares like a dumb-founded idiot who is totally blown away and he cannot think of what he should do. He is mesmerized like a deer caught in the headlights. You’re perfectly engaging, beautiful, and everything he never imagined existed. He just did not know God could be this generous to him. Too late. You moved on.
He’s a Creep. He might be enjoying the show. If you decide he might be interesting he may not shake your hand because you’re too bold, too aggressive. You’ve caught him out and he doesn’t want anyone to know that he was thinking about you in that way because it’s his private thought. These guys are more common than they should be. Most of them (in my experience) never harmed anyone. They were passing through phases of immaturity and eventually found girlfriends who became wives and raised families with them.
Why do some guys go through this creepy phase? I guess it’s hormones. Maybe it’s upbringing. I don’t know. They are usually caricatured in the movies by the super dorky “friends” who are constantly trying to get into girls’ pants and never succeed (except when they meet the perfect girl who helps them grow up).
What is the difference between Super Dork and Future Public Enemy No. 1? I’m not qualified to say but I suspect that Super Dork has a more stable social life (with his guy friends) than FPEN1. Super Dorks are socially awkward, sometimes isolated, and really don’t know how to behave around girls. I have never seen one actually drool but they manage to rule themselves out of a lot of possible long-term relationships through being too narrowly focused on their own interests; when they meet a cute girl they just creep her out. Yeah, they like to watch from afar but they mean no harm.
Some creepy guys are sexual predators who disguise themselves as “hookup artists”. But these guys would definitely shake your hand. If anything, these are the guys who coldly, calculatingly get you to cozy up to them with their smooth moves, quick wit, and great senses of humor. They are looking for hits and scores.
So What Should You Do if He Won’t Shake Your Hand? You have to pay attention to him long enough to determine if A) he is worth getting to know and B) if he wants to get to know you. Just because he is attracted does not mean he is ever in a million years going to do something about it.
Women have naturally developed “The Test” that they are constantly applying to men. He has to pass your tests. These are your defense mechanism. We get tired of constantly having to pass tests. You know some marriages and relationships are about to end when the man no longer cares about being the partner his woman wants or needs. He lets the tests go unanswered. But at the beginning of the relationship, before anyone knows anyone, women instinctively filter out the less mature guys from the more mature guys with their multitude of tests.
It’s not a perfect system. Some girls go above and beyond the call of duty and coax that guy out of his shell. Some guys practice passing the tests until they get whatever they want. But by and large if he’s not ready to man up and get to know you better he’s going to have to wait for the next star to brighten up his heavens.
You can give him a few more chances but sooner or later you have to give up and leave him in the past. Eventually most guys meet someone in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them.
My father once gave me some advice that, in retrospect, worked out perfectly. He said, “Let it happen. Don’t make it happen.” And that is probably the best advice we can all take in matters of the heart.
Good luck ladies. May you earn each other’s love and keep that flame alight through thick and thin (because there will be both).