June 1, 2021
With restrictions easing and people gathering, I am wondering, “Is the handshake dead?” Navigating pandemic etiquette is ever-changing.
I have been taught that shaking hands with someone when you meet them is a sign of respect. Many years ago, a previous employer brought in a professional to take me and my colleagues through business etiquette. We were all seated in a room in a horseshoe layout. The facilitator came up to each of us to shake our hands. I was so nervous! Would my handshake be firm enough? Were my hands clammy?
I automatically stood up when she got to me and stuck out my hand and hoped for the best. After she went around the room, she pointed out that I was the only person to stand when greeting her. Everyone else remained seated while she stood shaking their hands. Turns out my instincts were correct! She taught us to shake hands by connecting firmly but not too much pressure, shake 1-2, then release by gently pulling back our hand keeping it at a level height.
Over the past 16 months, I have not shaken hands with anyone outside of my bubble. I am craving hugs. I long for the comfort felt when connecting by touch with another person. Obviously, the handshake is not coming back very quickly. As we move to higher levels of vaccination, and restrictions are easing, the way we greet people will continue to evolve.
Speaking of vaccinations, how do you handle the question of “Are you vaccinated?” Do you have the right to ask someone that? Do you have to disclose if you are, or are not, vaccinated? CBC published an article last month on how to navigate this tricky situation. Until the majority of people are vaccinated, it might make someone uncomfortable if you ask them if they have received their shot, especially if they are in a higher priority group due to medical health conditions, or other circumstances. They might feel you are judging them or questioning how they received their shot before you. We must trust that people are following the guidelines on the honour system and not circumventing the process. As gathering sizes increase, it is natural to wonder if people in attendance are vaccinated. You may find your host asking you that question.
Is the handshake dead? Maybe, maybe not. Be sure to watch the video in the CBC article on this topic. Later this month I have a business trip and I am looking forward to facilitating an in-person event, following all health guidelines. I will be respectful of others and their comfort level. I have my first vaccine and will disclose that if asked. If the other person is showing signs of discomfort connecting with a handshake, I will not offer my hand. While it is tricky navigating etiquette in a pandemic, the basics stay the same. Be kind. Show respect. Be genuine in your connections. ~ Carole