Whenever I teach handshakes in my training seminars or keynote presentations there are always a lot of questions. One I’m often asked is “what do I do if I don’t want to shake hands with others to avoid getting germs?” I’ve also been asked this by friends who are germ phobic and would prefer handshaking just went away.
A handshake is a way to show goodwill to others. We started shaking hands in the Middle Ages to show we weren’t holding a weapon or hiding one up our sleeve. Most likely we don’t have to worry about someone harboring a weapon, so today handshaking is a way to greet, thank or say goodbye to someone. It is a simple touch that can mean so much.
I really think we need to stop worrying about germs. We live in a germy world. Even our houses, our havens from the dirty world, are some of the germiest places around. We can’t escape germs and I think we harm ourselves more by refusing to shake hands.
As a professional speaker, trainer and business owner I shake a lot of hands. I am mindful to wash my hands after an event or before I eat and I am rarely sick. In fact, some of my friends who do less handshaking get sick more often.
Also, as our world becomes increasingly driven by technology and we communicate through our many digital devices we are losing the closeness we used to have. Face to face meetings happen less and less, which means we are touched less by others. I don’t think this is good. We need more touch, not less. A handshake is a warm, professional way to greet someone.
As my wise, gracious etiquette trainer, Maria Everding, wrote about the subject, “A handshake is a personal link between two people. It’s what we do in the United States.”
That said; if you are sick do not shake hands with others. Simply explain you have a cold and don’t want to spread your germs. That is the courteous thing to do.
What is your take on this? Are you in the “handshakes should go away so I can avoid getting someone’s germs” camp or do you reside in the “a handshake is an important part of social and business interactions” group? If you do wish handshakes would go away, do you think we should do something else or nothing at all?
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