Is the handshake over? What should replace it?

Once considered an essential skill, a small gesture that could reveal a great deal about your character and confidence, the traditional handshake may be a thing of the past. With so many of us spending months and months staying at least two metres away from other people, how comfortable will we be suddenly clasping palms with someone we just meet for the first time?

Handshakes were such an important ritual, especially in business settings. We’ve actually published articles here on CareerBeacon detailing the exact length of the perfect business handshake. I know I included a link to it, but don’t bother reading it. It doesn’t matter anymore.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the U.S. has suggested that we shouldn’t all return to shaking hands to great people or close a deal, even after the pandemic crisis is over. He recently told the Wall Street Journal, “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.”

“We don’t need to shake hands,” he went on. “We’ve got to break that custom because, as a matter of fact, that is really one of the major ways that you can transmit a respiratory-borne illness.”

What should replace the handshake?

If we all agree to abandon the handshake, what should we do instead? How do we greet someone or demonstrate our alignment?

The first suggestion to come to mind is the elbow bump. Tapping elbows is similar to shaking hands in that you are face to face with the other person and making a mutual gesture. It is what many people already do in place of shaking hands when they have a cold or flu.

Post pandemic, it has its drawbacks though. First off, as I mentioned, you are face to face with the other person, and close enough for your elbows to touch. So, that’s less than ideal. Also, we’ve just spent months reminding people to cough or sneeze into their elbows, so you might want to keep that to yourself.

The fist bump has similar issues. It’s face-to-face physical contact.

Many people are suggesting the Hindu namaste greeting. This is placing your palms together as in prayer in front of your heart and bowing slightly. It can be done from a safe distance a requires no touching.

We could also bring back the gun salute. Extending the index finger and raising the thumb to make a gun hand and tilting it down and up towards the other person. This has the advantage of providing options. You could do one gun for casual acquaintances, two guns for close friends, and maybe even add the blowing smoke off the barrel gesture for sealing major deals. Awesome way to end a business meeting.

Others have suggested we adopt Spock greeting from Star Trek. This is where the character would hold out his hand, palm up and divide the fingers with the index and middle fingers leaning towards the thumb while the other two fingers lean the other way creating a v-shaped gap in the middle. Live long and prosper.

Of course, we could always just go with a warm smile and a wave.

What do you think? If we were told the virus was under control and it was safe to go back to work or job hunting, would you be comfortable shaking hands with a stranger? And if not, what should replace it? Let us know!

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