A Piece on Giving Dap

By Brian Yeo

We’ve all heard about the importance of having a good, firm handshake. To many people, there’s nothing worse than shaking hands with someone with a weak, limp grip. Though seemingly insignificant, a lot goes through a simple handshake between two individuals and, whether it be fair or not, people make certain assumptions about an individual through the quality of his or her handshake. In fact, multiple studies have shown that a good handshake can elevate the level of intimacy and trust during an interaction. And many job interviewers and CEOs expound the significance of a good handshake in fostering a positive impression.

But today, I want to talk about a form of greeting that plays a larger role in my daily life and in the lives of many young adults in high school or college—properly giving dap. For those unfamiliar with the term, “giving dap” goes under many monikers and has a litany of variations. However, the basic definition of giving dap is simple; it’s a greeting between two parties involving bodily contact (primarily hand-to-hand) that signifies friendliness, agreement, or openness. You’re probably familiar with some of the forms of dap.


The fist-bump.
The slide-and-lock. (end result)
The arm-wrestling hold.

The arm-wrestling hold into a half-hug (bro hug).

The half-hug combined with a back pound (pound hug).

The slide and bump.

The high five.

And many more.

Giving dap is ubiquitous, and even if you aren’t young, odds are you’ve seen people engaging in this. While it is true that you’re much more likely to relate with this piece if you’re a young male, giving dap in the modern-day transcends age, gender, and ethnic boundaries. Barack Obama gives dap. The Queen of England has (probably) given dap. I give dap. These are only three notable figures from different backgrounds that are tied together by dap.

While greeting people through physical contact is by no means a recent phenomenon, the origins of modern-day dap can be found within the African American community in the second half of the twentieth century. According to some black writers, it served as a means of distinct expression among black youth and eventually disseminated to other ethnic groups in America, primarily through pop culture and sports. Now, you can see people of all races and age groups from many different countries giving dap.

As I stated before, there are a myriad of ways to give dap and many friends like to come up with their own unique, and often complex, “handshakes.” These handshakes serve as a way to display a unique friendship between the two individuals that craft it while also being fun and extravagant. This tends to be more common among athletes and has been popularized in major sports leagues like the NBA. When watching some teams, like the Cleveland Cavaliers, you can see almost every player having a unique handshake with every other player.

But today, we focus on the basics. In our daily lives, like having a good handshake, it can be important to be able to give dap properly. Among many social groups in the teenage and young adult age ranges, the common way to greet each other is through dap rather than traditional handshakes. Even when meeting people for the first time, especially through a mutual friend, I found it more common to dap them up than to shake their hands. So it becomes important to have your dap game down.

Everybody can relate to flubbing a dap exchange with someone else and to the demoralizing feeling that is shared between the two of you. Now, if you’re close enough with the other person, it’s easy to shake it off and maybe even give it another attempt. However, if you and the other individual don’t know each other well, the situation could be much more awkward and you move past it without mentioning anything. I’ve gone in for a fist bump when the other person went in for a hand grab or high five, and vice versa, more than I could ever count.

And sometimes when we both attempt to come in with an open hand, the intended outcomes can be conflicting. One very pronounced example comes as a result of my spending long stretches of times on opposite coasts. When I’m at Yale in the east, the go-to greeting is the slide and lock. However, when I’m back in Los Angeles, the most common exchange is the slide and bump. After spending an extended period on one coast, traveling to the other means that I’ll routinely mess up when giving dap for the first few weeks.

Like having a bad handshake, messing up dap with another individual, regardless of whether he or she is a friend or not, is never a positive. Even more so than a traditional handshake, I believe that dap is a much more intimate exchange and a successful encounter elevates perception of friendship and compatibility. In certain cases, some people use giving dap as a way to, fairly or not, assess how much they would get along with a person. In the grand scheme of things, messing up and caring about giving dap well is pretty inconsequential. But, like caring about having a firm handshake, caring about giving dap stems from a desire to make good impressions with others and can have tangible effects in building relationships.

So, to close, here are some tips to giving dap for those who don’t know how or struggle to:

  • Observe how people around you, either in your general area or school, tend to greet each other. There tends to be an overarching method of giving dap in respective areas.
  • Normally, if you’re greeting someone who you have just met, go for a more casual and less intimate variation. Those that don’t involve hugs are usually the go-to.
  • For friends, use your established method of greeting each other. If you don’t already have one, think about explicitly creating one.
  • The angle and altitude of the hand matters as well in deciphering exactly what the other person is intending. Eventually, through experience, you can recognize patterns and adjust on the fly.
  • If worse comes to worst, go for a regular handshake or arm-wrestling hold.

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