A few weeks ago Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease recommended we eliminate handshakes even when we are back to work, back to being less than six feet away from each other. Reasonable advice from one who wants to keep us safe and healthy. But what will replace it? And why are we asking this now?
It’s important because a handshake is more than a simply physical gesture. It is and always has been a form of communication, it’s a way of delivering important messages: You’re safe with me. I welcome you. We’re in this together
Look back in history, to the times when knights wore armor and wars between nobles were common. Then a handshake was an answer to a question: Am I safe being close to you? Do you have a weapon hidden up your sleeve?
We aren’t thinking of hidden weapons when we shake hands at a meeting today. But we still have question in mind: Are you happy to see me, pleased that we’re working together? A handshake gives the answer. Yes, I am. Maybe more important its the final step when we “seal the deal.”
If we give up our familiar handshake how will we deliver those important messages?
With a wave of hand (the open palm clearly saying there’s no weapon)? With a clap or two offering a sound instead of touch (the traditional greeting in Zimbabwe)? With a bow following the traditional greeting of our colleagues in China and Japan? Or will we develop a new way of delivering those important messages that allow us to connect, show respect, and say my intentions are honorable, I’m happy to engage with you? What will the new handshake look like?