General Etiquette > Family and Children

Rude Not to Shake Hands with Family Member?

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It's a little late to do anything about it anyway, and I wasn't there to witness this.  In a nutshell, my brother is still angry at my uncle (and rightly so, IMO), but yesterday was the baby's Christening, so my brother decided to try to put it aside for a day.  The Christening went well, and I went back home because I was in pain from my neck and shoulder, but my mom and brother went over to their house for a little "after-thing".

Everything was apparently very nice up until the end, when my uncle tried to shake hands with my brother.  My brother folded his arms, and nodded.  The following exchange apparently went something like this:

Uncle: Aren't you going to shake hands with me?
Brother: No.
Uncle: *demanding* Why not?
Brother: This isn't the time or place to discuss it.

After that, my uncle blew up at him.  It was "Eff" this, "Eff" that, "You treat me like *expletive*", and so on.  Right in front of his kids, too.  My brother kept his cool, refusing to shout back, and my mother said, "We'll just go," since they were on their way out the door anyway. 

My grandmother was trying to diffuse the situation, saying, "That's okay."  My mom heard my uncle's wife saying, "No, it's NOT."

My question is, was my brother rude to refuse the handshake?  Either way, I think my uncle's reaction was way out of proportion to the "slight", but since I wasn't there to see it I only have the accounts of my mother and brother.  I have no reason to doubt them, and having seen my uncle in action before I have no reason to think his tirade was warranted. 

I'm not sure I would have refused to shake his hand, but I don't know if I can disagree with my brother here.

Is there some background to this story? I'm having some trouble understanding the issue. I would say that in most cases, it is rude to refuse to shake hands without a good reason.

There's a bit of a background in my last topic, I think.  My brother posted a political thing he happened to find about a month ago, and my uncle sent him some pretty abusive Facebook PM's, insulting his sexual orientation and implying that he was an idiot for believing political propaganda.  My brother defended himself instead of backing down, so my uncle unfriended him.  My brother wants nothing to do with him, but since this was a day for the baby he tried to put it aside.  He later told me that he wouldn't shake hands because he didn't feel comfortable doing so.

Shaking hands is basic good manners. It's a perfunctory gesture. It doesn't imply anything else (like approval, forgiveness, etc.). If your brother decided to try to put ill will aside for the day, he didn't try very hard IMO.

The uncle's behavior was far worse. He was obnoxious and disruptive, detracting attention from the meaning and purpose of the occasion.

I guess I've got my answer.  :)  Thanks, I wasn't quite clear on this.  I don't know if it matters here or not, but my brother has Asperger's Syndrome, so I wasn't sure if what he viewed as "standing up for his principles" was actually rudeness or not.  He actually does very well, but he has to think a bit more than some people before he says or does something.  It's just the way it is.

I don't suppose it makes a difference, though.  If it wasn't this, it would have been something else.  To my uncle, any sign of not going along with what he wants seems to count as "treating him like *expletive*".


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