Handshake Etiquette After COVID-19
Our time-honoured tradition and professional greeting have always been the extension of one’s hand in the form of a handshake when meeting, greeting and doing business. I have spent most of my career teaching students and executives on how to properly shake hands and what types of handshakes to avoid. For example, you would not offer a double-fisted handshake to someone you did not know very well. And a loose, limp handshake sends the message of weakness or disinterest. But, at least for now, those days are behind us!
What was once an indicator of a positive first impression will leave a lasting memory in a negative context if you were to extend your hand today. A gesture that was associated with strength, compassion, trust and friendliness is now completely removed from our society during this pandemic.
I have been asked often of late if the popularity of the handshake will ever return?
How much hand to hand contact in the future will be dependent on many different variables. Affirmation that the virus has successfully been contained, recommendations, individual company policies will all play a role. As well as social comfort levels of the people exchanging physical greetings, including high fives, hugs and kisses. We have developed and will continue to exercise alternatives to physical touch.
Raising your outstretched arms and then crossing them against your own body simulates a virtual hug.
A nod, a wave, or smiling as you slightly bow all signal affection or respect. By this point, we all have developed our own comfortable gestures to substitute a handshake.
As we move past the virus and enter a normal world (which will never be the same norm), we must also respect other people’s comfort level and accept their choice of greeting. If someone extends their hand and you are not comfortable, you are perfectly in your bounds to say “If you don’t mind, I am going to continue to skip handshakes for the time being, but be assured I am happy to see you.”
There will no longer be a right or wrong.
Some people will be anxious to get back to business, extending their hand for a firm handshake while others will remain hesitant. Simply real-life people attempting to acclimate to the new normal.
For now, we stay firmly planted in the midst of a health crisis. And rushing through the process will not only make people more uncomfortable but deeply cautious about being around you.
When the time comes, I suggest you make an informed decision based on direction from health care providers and your own health care team) and carefully re-enter the new, enlightened world with an understanding and deference for each other’s comfort level.
Here is the difference in greetings from only a few short weeks ago and now.
Characteristics of the perfect handshake included:
The firm, but not aggressive grip that engages the entire hand.
Fingers remain together, rather than wide and spread up the arm.
Shake from the elbow, engaging the arm, rather than only the wrist.
Smile, greet and make eye contact while delivering the handshake.
Today’s greeting in the midst of the pandemic includes:
Make eye contact.
Keep your hands to yourself.
Understand your distance
International Etiquette Expert