Today is national handshake day, which has me wondering where you stand on the tradition. After COVID, our culture shifted in a big way virtually eliminating the practice. Is the handshake coming back or should we take it behind the barn and shoot it once and for all?
Last night our radio station was at a public event and we got to meet and greet our listeners, clients, and friends. I sat back and observed how people greeted each other, and what I saw was worth a conversation.
I witnessed people initiating the handshake to others that were clearly apprehensive. In today’s climate it is a bit brazen to put someone on the spot. How do you know where they stand on the issue? People fold under social pressure, especially in business. That is why you need to have a plan going into a social situation if you are not on team handshake.
How To Avoid The Handshake Without Offending Others
The most important thing is to have a plan. When meeting up with someone that you don’t want to touch there is a universal signal that never fails, a broad and bright smile. Start there, they’ll know you’re friendly right away.
However, this is not enough. The smile could be an invite for the hand so you have to have a plan for what to do with your hands. There are a few options that show immediate respect and let the other party know that the shake is not happening before they even offer their hand. I’ve used all three of the following and they all work quite well.
1. Take your right hand and put it over your heart like you are about to say the pledge of allegiance. A warm verbal hello with a smile and a simultaneous hand over the heart shows sincere happiness to meet them.
2. Another option I’ve used is ripped right from the Asian culture handbook. For centuries Asian cultures joined their hands in a prayer-like gesture and did a mini bow. This is a gratitude position and since both hands are close to your chest in a gesture it is clear you are not going in for hand-to-hand contact.
3. I also enjoy the “happy wave” saying hello while excitedly doing the cute side-to-side wave lets someone know you are happy to see them but they can see right away you are not up for more.
4. Of course, there are times when you get bombarded with someone thrusting their hand in your space…you can opt for the fist bump in a pinch, and if they strong-arm you into the shake just keep some sanitizer in your pocket with an easy pump so you can discretely pump and wipe right after contact without them even knowing.
Can we all agree that the elbow or foot tap needs to stop? I’ll be the one to say it, tapping elbows or feet makes you look like a colossal dork. Fist bump if you must but the elbow this is the equivalent of going to a high 5 and missing. Awkward!
I’ve heard people say that it will negatively affect you in business if you do not go with the traditional shake. I disagree. If you have a pre-determined social response to the handshake it actually shows that you are assertive and not easily pressured. That’s the new power move.
Be polite, be ready, and stick to your preference. If there is an antiquated client or boss critical of avoiding the shake, they will be exposed as not having their finger on the pulse of what is new and now. Believe me, they will eventually get the message because you will not be the only one sending the message to evolve.