Being sensitive about Southpaws

Last week, August 13 was International Left hander’s Day—a day when the world acknowledges another abnormality around us, Left-handed folks.

Thanks to celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Bill Gates, Barak Obama, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and several others, left-handers have received a lot of attention and recognition. It has elevated their status from being abnormal to unique.

Research insights

Several research studies point out that 85% of the people in the world are right-handed. Of the remaining 15%, the majority are left-handed, and a tiny percentage are ambidextrous. Chimpanzees, gorillas, and other nonhuman primates have not displayed a right or left-hand bias. It is not clear how right-handed people came to dominate the world. Researchers also suggest that genetic, hormonal, developmental and cultural factors play an important role in influencing hand preference. Statistics points to more left-handed people with IQs over 140 compared to right-handed people. Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Charles Darwin are some of the examples cited to substantiate this.

Google Left-handers and the search engine throws up the ‘people also ask prompt’, in which questions would typically be like, what causes a person to be left-handed, what is special about the left-handed person, how did handedness evolve and so on.

Down memory lane

A few decades ago, Left-handedness was seen as a mystery and also as a taboo. During my childhood, I have had people view my left-handedness as a strange thing. People have given me looks and even admonished me for being not normal.

In my Kindergarten years, when I used to pick my pencil in my left hand, teachers in my school have attempted to correct it. Thanks to my parents, who were steadfast believers that I should use the hand I am comfortable in, I escaped the conversion!

While some have made me feel being a southpaw is unique, some others have branded it weird. Unique because you stand out in a crowd that is right-handed. Weird because it is unusual and not normal. Much has changed since then. I am no longer asked questions like why do you write with your left hand? Have you always been writing with your left hand? Why do you tilt your book so much while writing and so on.

Miles to go

However, we still have a long way to go before we say our workplace is left-hander friendly. For instance, training chairs with a desk attached are meant for right-handed folks. Scissors and Mouse are for right-hand use. The list can go on.

I am not sure how many companies ask their employees, particularly the new joiners, if they are left-handed. I guess this is one piece of information that new employees also would not mind disclosing. Wherever possible, companies need to provide employees with tools and facilities that make them work comfortably and at ease. Being sensitive and acknowledging that we are different from right-handed people itself is a good beginning.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Radha Radhakrishnan
Radha Radhakrishnan has over 25 years of experience in corporate communications and marketing across different industries and geographies. She has built a reputation as a storyteller and a creative thinker. She has mentored social entrepreneurial startups and has been a visiting faculty at premier communications institutes in India. She is currently the global head of corporate communications at Wipro Enterprises. She anchors the weekly PR and Communication podcast, Mrigashira.

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