The 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!
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I’m anxiously waiting for the “Lydia Ramsey Guide to the Good Manners Business Fist-Bump.” I think it’s America’s next great cultural / healthcare export. And only YOU, Lydia, can show us the way. I’m seeing a DVD product with multiple clips of high-powered executives, politicians, and entertainers demonstrating the non-awkward, friendly-but-firm, put-’em-at-ease, high and low, knuckle-to-knuckle interactions, with running commentary by the esteemed Lydia Ramsey.
Or we could just bring back gloves.
Good article – thanks!
Thank you, Greg. I always appreciate your comments and unique perspective. I am currently watching the PBS series on the Roosevelt family and trying to picture FDR and Winston Churchill doing the fist pump.
This is a tough one, Lydia. My father taught all five of his children how to do a firm (but not crushing) handshake, and to look people in the eye when greeting them. I would miss the handshake if it were discouraged for public health reasons, but desperate times may call for desperate measures. Without the handshake, we would need to become even better at delivering and reading body language or making sure that we had words to accompany the hand bump to warm up its meaning.
Elizabeth, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I think we are in for some challenges. Lydia
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This is spooky. I just read your wonderful June 2017 newsletter about the handshake, with a link to this post. So of course I read this post, and was going to offer a comment about fist pumps (and maybe even cheek bumps), only to see that I already offered the same basic comment THREE YEARS AGO!
At least I know my brain works the same, for better or worse.
I thought your thoughts about the handshake in your June 2017 newsletter are right on target. It’s a cultural staple in the west, but becoming more awkward for many reasons. The history of it is fascinating. Maybe the future of it is…. bowing?