Shaking hands has been customary in business meetings for as long as we can remember, but some experts believe the tradition could soon die out as a result of COVID-19.
In 2019, a study published in the Journal of Personality of Social Psychology concluded that handshakes are perceived as an intent to cooperate, and lead to improved negotiation outcomes. But health experts say that in light of social distancing requirements, shaking hands has now become an outdated custom.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said that: “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again. … 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 illness.”
Should the handshake disappear, it’s not clear how we would replace it. In USA Today, one expert suggests simply replacing handshakes with a simple “hello” or other greeting. Others may want to take cues from other cultures, which use a simple bow or prayer-like gesture as a greeting instead.
Greetings on technology platforms may serve as a guide for how people connect in the future. Etiquette experts point to examples of people using communication technologies where they give a wave, thumbs up, or nod their head to greet one another. “What these welcoming greetings all share is appropriate eye contact and a smile,” writes Bradley Ruffle, a professor of economics and academic director of McMaster University’s Decision Science Laboratory, and Candace Smith, a business etiquette coach.
But etiquette experts caution that there may be some social awkwardness while figuring out appropriate greetings. Some people may use this time period to temporarily pause the practice of shaking hands while others may prefer never to extend their hand again.
“When we surface from this crisis and get to be in one another’s company again, it’s uncertain as to how we’ll greet each other again physically,” Ruffle and Smith write. “This break from socializing allows each one of us to consider what replacing the handshake might feel like.”