Tag Archives: Business handshake

Will the Handshake Fall Victim to Corona?

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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

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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