Category Archives: Handshaking

Will the Handshake Fall Victim to Corona?

Posted on by

The handshake, as we know it now, is in danger of becoming extinct, much to the delight of some and to the chagrin of others. During this crisis in addition to practicing social distance, washing our hands constantly, not touching our face, we have been advised not to shake hands. Eventually, we will be able to gather with others socially and professionally. When we do, we may remember to wash our hands frequently. We may think twice before touching our face. But what will become of the handshake? If Dr. Fauci of the Corona Taskforce has his way, the handshake will be history. I have the utmost respect for Dr. Fauci.

I am not disagreeing with Dr. Fauci. I am wondering just how this will work. After all, we have been shaking hands for centuries. Mo Rocca of CBS interviewed an anthropologist who stated that the handshake dates back 60 million years. He said it is “a very primal sort of connection, very emotional.” He pointed out that chimpanzees and gorillas long for tactile contact and do much the same thing as humans. We all like that physical connection.

Throughout history the handshake has been a sign of peace and respect. We shake hands with our right hand. Some say that has its origins in medieval times. Knights used the right hand because that was the one that drew the sword. Engaged in a handshake, the knight was not able to draw his sword and strike.

Today we extend a handshake in both social and business situations. We offer our hand when we meet people, when we leave people, when we thank someone, congratulate someone or offer an apology. If that age-old practice goes away, what will we do? While there are options, one thing is for sure, there will be many awkward moments.

Before you head out into the world of the “new normal’, decide how you want to deal with the issue and plan what you will say. If you choose to remain a fan of the handshake, don’t assume other people are. You might approach by asking people how they feel about shaking your hand. If they don’t want to engage, assure them that you understand. If you are anti-handshaking, say so right away. You might say, “Please forgive me for not shaking your hand, but in light of all we’ve been through, I am not comfortable doing so.”

Some people are turning to the East for guidance and choosing the Indian greeting Namaste. You bring both hands together and center them in front of your chest. Then make a small motion to bow while saying Namaste. In the Japanese tradition, the bow is another choice for staying germ-free.

One more greeting is simply holding up an open hand to others. That signals that you are not going to shake hands. It is generally readily understood. Just make sure your open hand doesn’t come across as “Whoa, back off.”

In case you end up shaking someone’s hand because it’s such an ingrained habit, pause before dousing yourself in hand sanitizer.

I have omitted the fist bump and elbow bump from my list of professional greetings. Need I say more?

Good manners and etiquette are about making people feel comfortable. Keep that in mind when you decide how to deal with shaking hands in a world that the Corona virus has changed forever.

The Drama of the Handshake

Posted on by

Recently there has been more than the usual attention paid to the handshake. You know, that age-old tradition of meeting and greeting by extending one’s hand to another. After centuries it appears that not everyone has perfected the practice. It doesn’t seem that it would be hard to get it right; but if your experience is like mine, you never know what you are going to get when you offer your hand.

The handshake is the unspoken message that accompanies our words. It has existed in some form or another for centuries, but its origins are slightly murky. One theory is that it began as a way of conveying peaceful intentions. By extending their empty right hands, strangers could show that they were not holding weapons and bore no ill will toward one another. It has even been suggested that the up-and-down motion of the handshake was intended to dislodge any knives or daggers that might be hidden up a sleeve. Another explanation is that the handshake was a symbol of good faith when making an oath or promise. By clasping hands, people showed that their word was a sacred bond.

The correct way to shake hands is to make contact “web-to-web” with the other person’s hand. Begin by extending your hand with your fingers together, in a vertical position, with the thumb up and slightly to the side. Once you make contact with the web of the other person’s hand, close your thumb over the back of the hand and give a slight squeeze with your fingertips. Now this is where so many people go wrong. Some move in for the kill and give a bone-crushing handshake causing pain. Then there are those who stop at the first hint of contact. They never add the little squeeze that indicates a bit of life, energy or enthusiasm. The result is the “wimpy” or “limp” handshake. Then how about the person who won’t let go? Try as you might, you are locked into what seems to be an eternal grip.

It is considered impolite to refuse to shake a hand that is offered, but be prepared in case you meet someone who says “No” to handshakes because of arthritis, joint problems or illness. The one who is unable to shake hands should always offer an apology and a brief explanation so the other person does not feel shunned. If you encounter someone who does not respond in any way to your outstretched hand, let it go. It’s awkward but not your problem.

In spite of the casual trend in business today, a proper handshake will always be a powerful gesture that demands attention, conveys courtesy and communicates power and status. Make sure you send the right message.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products

Left Handers Day

Posted on by

Did you know that there is such a thing as “Left Handers Day?” This is an event, which recognizes the 10% of people in the world who are left-handed, and is celebrated across the globe on August 13th. Mark your calendars so you don’t miss it.

In my training sessions, particularly when I am speaking about shaking hands or table manners, the left handers in the group are quick to point out the challenges they face in trying to be well-mannered in a right-handed world. For example. when shaking hands anywhere in the world, the right hand is extended. Lefties have learned to adjust. Studies show that they are generally more flexible and adaptable than right handers. Of course, they have little choice.

The rules of dining also offer challenges. Left handers have to be careful not to commandeer their neighbor’s bread and butter plate which is always positioned on the left side of the place setting. Left handers are often tempted to put their glass of water, tea  or wine down on the left side of the place setting rather than the right where beverages belong. It is more convenient and manageable for them but causes confusion for the person seated on their left.

Lefties, given a choice, will take the seat at the end of the table where there is no one on their left. The reason for this–when a left-handed person has a right-handed person on their left, the two run the risk of bumping elbows during the meal.

If you want to learn more about left handers and the challenges they face, check out their website.

My favorite quote from the site is “Right handed people operate in the left side of the brain. Left handed people use the right side. Therefore, only left-handed people are in their right mind.”

As a matter of courtesy and respect, we right handers need to be more sensitive of left handers and their daily trials.

Additional information on being courteous and respectful of others can be found in my book, Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits.

Photo from Savannah magazine

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com

Is the Handshake Dead ?

Posted on by

HandshakeThe handshake has long been a social tradition. Across the globe people shake hands. They do it in greeting, congratulating, thanking, appreciating, confirming and departing. Now in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association there is talk of banning the handshake in the healthcare environment.

The reason that JAMA is suggesting a ban on shaking hands is to stop, or at least slow, the spread of many infectious diseases. Physicians traditionally shake a patient’s hand when greeting the patient and when leaving the patient. It is way of putting the patient at ease and establishing rapport.

Now that it has been discovered that the deadly MERS virus was spread from one individual to another through a handshake, there is even more attention being given to this longstanding social custom. JAMA is suggesting that all healthcare environments be declared “handshake-free zones” and that signs be put up notifying patients and their families. The wording goes something like this: “Handshake-free zone: to protect your health and the health of those around you, please refrain from shaking hands while on these premises.”

There are already individuals who refuse to shake hands, even in the business world, for fear of spreading germs. However, in doing so, these germ-a-phobes run the risk of insulting other people and losing business.

The debate has just begun. I think we are going to hear a lot more on this subject. For now I agree with Dr. Dave Hnida, CBSDenver.com blogger, that common sense and personal hygiene are what we need to consider. Washing your hands frequently and using hand-sanitizer are already proven ways to preserve an important social custom and prevent the spread of disease.

What is your opinion on the issue of the handshake? Is it to shake or not to shake?

Keep on shaking and washing your hands!

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.