The Universal Language of ‘High Five’

Universal High Five

A Universal High Five

Adopting a toddler internationally poses a lot of blessings and challenges.  Communication has got to be at the top of the list of hurdles that have to be overcome early in the relationship.  In order to make progress as a family, you need to know and understand each other. Educational professionals will tell you there are a lot of techniques such as sign language, tone, repetition etc, that can make inroads into the mind of a toddler quickly.  And they would be right. We have been using them all.  

We have found, however, that there is a much more basic concept that provided common ground almost immediately with little to no instruction.  It was an international bridge over the river of communication dividing Chinese and English, toddler and adult.  Wanna know the secret? It was the universal language of the high five!  

It was amazing to me that something so simple could ignite a spark in Little Li that showed understanding, trust and encouragement.  It was one of the first things we did with her that led to a consistent smile and REAL interaction.  Early on a hug, a kiss or even holding hands was often out of the question.  She has become a high five junkie!  She basks in the smiles and encouragement it sparks in the people around her and asks for more. For a little human with limited interaction involving human touch, a hug is too much to ask early on.  But a high five?  No problem!   

The high five is  a gesture that led to understanding between two humans divided by words, age and pretty much every other difference possible.  Its a place were two people who seem to have nothing in common, can for a moment share the same space and revel in it.  It inevitably brings a smile and something to celebrate if only for a second.

We wait for children to grow up and mature, but personally I think we have a lot to learn from them.  Have all of the grownups in the world forgotten the  simple concept of the high five? They are not limited to children or athletes on the court or field.  We can encourage each other daily in everything we do.  Sometimes we just need to know someone is in our corner and cheering us on!  A kind word and ‘you got this,’ can be all that’s needed to push someone to the shore of success and break barriers that seem frightening at first.  (Just think about a Chinese toddler in the middle of a room of American adults!)

Even though I consider myself an optimist in perpetual training, I have often been dragged into the sea of negativity that seems to surround me wherever I go. It happens at home, at work and sad to say even church.  I would love to tell you I am always able to rise above the tide, but I am still working on it. Daily. 

I find it ironic that I had forgotten for a brief moment the power of the high five. (Although I have only recently fully realized its international and generational impact.) My company has been on a journey of leadership transformation to get past the social awkwardness and fully embrace the power of the high five.  (Check out the Heart of a Leader and High Five King, Brandon Johnson.  His training can be life changing.Not kidding!) As with any anything worthwhile, the journey to self-transformation from nay-sayer to encourager or ‘high-fiver’ starts with the heart and happens one high-five at a time.

Is there someone in your life who really needs a high five today? Your hubby? The kids? A co-worker? I know there is.  If you can’t think of anybody then you are just not trying hard enough. Start to bridge the gap of pessimism surrounding you. You can do it! I know you can. 



Consider this a digital high five

 Your friend,



3 thoughts on “The Universal Language of ‘High Five’

  1. Robin alexander

    Think of the high five as a physical and visual picture. Picture my mom pointing at me with that loooong index finger with one eye closed and lips pressed firmly together. I knew exactly from that visual picture what was coming! Sign language is a visual picture in motion. Use pictures!


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