Will We Ever Touch (Professionally) Again?

On the future of handshakes, fist bumps and even footshakes. …

“The handshake traditionally was meant to show respect in business,” said Myka Meier, the founder of Beaumont Etiquette, a manners consultancy based in New York City. “But now, by extending your hand, you may actually be doing the opposite.”

Half a year into the lockdown era, however, it’s fair to ask: Is the handshake truly dead, or is it simply hibernating? …

It’s worth noting that the handshake has endured at least since the days of “The Iliad,” when, scholars surmise, the gesture may have served as a demonstration of peace among the warlike — proof that they were not carrying, say, a dagger in their outstretched hand.

The briefly popular elbow bump, for example, which pops up, usually with maximum self-consciousness, in some business contexts, never feels quite right. It seems both stiffly formal and subtly aggressive at the same time, like a ritualized thrust-and-parry move from a children’s martial arts competition — not to mention epidemiologically suspect if we’re also being advised to cough and sneeze into our elbows.

Early on, the “footshake” — a gentle, mutual tap of the feet, like a soccer steal in slow motion — started popping up in international diplomatic circles. But it was hard to say if this absurd greeting was actually less or more ridiculous than Jimmy Kimmel’s knee-to-knee “Patella Hello” that the late-night host jokingly unveiled in March. …

We could look to Capitol Hill, where Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, has championed a serene hand-over-heart motion. Studies have shown such a literally heartfelt gesturefamiliar in Muslim cultures, can convey honesty, Mr. Farley said: “This body language is both warm and humble at the same time.”

Ms. Meier has instructed her clients to try alternatives she calls a “grasp-and-greet” (hands clasped at chest level, combined with a polite nod) and the “stop, drop and nod” (hands clutched behind one’s lower back, with a nod).

By Alex Williams, The New York Times

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