By Esi Han
Have you ever found yourself struggling to use your non-dominant hand and felt awkward? This is because our use of hands is deeply ingrained in our culture and history.
For instance, in the United Kingdom, driving on the left-hand side of the road dates back to the time when horse-drawn carriages were prevalent. Drivers would sit on the right side of the carriage so that their dominant hand, the right hand, could control the reins and whip.
This tradition continued when motor vehicles were introduced, leading to the left-hand driving system that we see in the UK today.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made us more aware of the importance of hygiene-related safety. Hand sanitizers have become a regular part of our lives, and hand washing is encouraged more than ever before. Our hands have also been identified as a significant medium for transmitting infections worldwide, which has led to a reduction in tactile greetings such as handshaking and hugging.
In this article, we will explore the importance of our hands, which we often take for granted. We will delve into the five distinct categories that our hands serve, starting with their function as a medium for transmitting infections or diseases. It is crucial to keep our hands clean, as they can transfer pathogens to ourselves and others through contact with contaminated surfaces like doorknobs and cell phones.
Secondly, our hands have a safety response management function. When we are dealing with hazards, responding to falling, or helping someone, our hands play a role as supports or buffers.
Thirdly, our hands have a nonverbal communication function. People with hearing impairments express themselves through sign language, and our gestures can convey our intentions in various ways. Even while driving, drivers often use hand signals to indicate their intentions.
Fourthly, our hands have an emotional expression function. The way we wave our hands to show joy or regret, clench our fists to express anger, or draw hearts with both hands containing emotions of love and affection. This function of the hand helps build strong bonds and healthy relationships as members of society.
Last, our hands have a function of performing tasks. Activities like holding a child, cooking, playing musical instruments, gardening, and writing are all closely tied to the use of hands.
Doing all these tasks without hands means that they become impossible or require overcoming a considerable challenge. Our hands are essential in our daily lives, serving various functions that we may take for granted. Understanding their importance and versatility helps us appreciate and take better care of them.
To understand why most people prefer to use their right hand, we need to examine the physical structure, genetic structure, and cultural categories. The human brain is divided into left and right hemispheres, each with different functions.
The left side of the brain is responsible for analytical, computational, and linguistic tasks, as well as future-oriented thinking, and it operates in conjunction with the right side of the body, including the right hand. On the other hand, the right side of the brain is in charge of intuitive and creative tasks, emotions, and experience-oriented memories, and it works in conjunction with the left side of the body, including the left hand.
The nerves in the brain are connected to the body on the opposite of each location, called collateral control. If you use the right hand, the left brain will be activated, which is responsible for language processing function and future-oriented thinking.
Communication has been the most significant means of survival in the evolution of civilization, and future-oriented thinking has improved our chances of survival and made our lives better. With the traction generated by the two main functions, the left side of the human brain would have been more active, and the function of the right hand would have been gradually strengthened. As one hand is used continuously, it becomes more skilled and used more efficiently, giving right-handed people a genetic advantage over left-handed people.
It is essential to recognize the functions and advantages of both the left and right hands, without considering one as superior or inferior to the other.
In many cultures, the dominant right hand is associated with purity, cleanliness, and power, while the left hand is considered unclean, impure, and inferior. However, this belief is baseless and must be discouraged.
We need to be considerate when encountering other cultures that have clear roles for the left and right hands, such as eating with the left hand, passing a business card, or shaking hands.
We should understand that there is individual difference in using the dominant hand and the supporting hand, and both hands should be treated equally. When we face left-handed people, we should recognize that they are not using the wrong hand but the one that activates other functions.
In conclusion, our hands are incredibly important, and we need to cherish them. We should appreciate their hard work and acknowledge their unique abilities and plentiful functions. By understanding how our hands work and what role they play, we can prevent unnecessary misunderstandings, miscommunication, infections, accidents, and injuries that may occur in our daily lives or industrial sites.
We need to value both our left and right hands and not discriminate against one or the other. Ultimately, both our hands are equally essential, and we need to show them love, care, and affection.
Editor's note: Ms. Esi Han is cross-cultural coach and an international manner instructor.
She is also a PR officer of a diplomatic mission in Seoul.