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The Handshake Alternative

Do you know how to NOT shake hands?

Handshakes are the silent MVP of greetings. We underestimate their importance because we do not understand the neurological and emotional responses they trigger. Handshakes signal warmth, friendliness, and confidence. They stimulate the release of oxytocin, a key neurological signal for trustworthiness that helps us move from foe to friend when meeting new people.

COVID-19 radically changed how we interact with one another, and people will likely be opting out of personal touch for a while. While handshakes are on hold, how will you create connection when greeting people? How do you communicate a genuine happiness to see someone without touch? How do you graciously turn down a handshake or kindly respond when someone pulls back from your extended hand?

Hand Over Heart

Initiate a handshake free greeting by making eye contactsmiling warmly, and placing your right hand over your heart as you verbally greet the other person.

The hand over heart move solves all your socially distant greeting challenges. For example, if someone offers a handshake and you prefer not to reciprocate, place your right hand over your heart, make eye contact, and smile warmly instead. If the other person looks disappointed or you feel an explanation is warranted, you could also say, “Given the current situation, I am choosing not to shake hands, but it is so good to see/meet you!” You must smile and exude warmth for this to land well.

Moving forward, if your handshake is rejected simply take your extended right hand that was left hanging, place it on your heart, and smile. Be gracious!

Is the handshake dead? Only time will tell. What is alive and well is the need to connect while social distancing. Everyone is trying to navigate the turbulent waters of social change so be kind and give others the benefit of the doubt. As always, people matter more than the “rules.” Responding to these potentially awkward first encounters with confidence and sensitivity will build bridges and lift spirits.

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