No offense, it just makes sense: Tips for avoiding a handshake

click to enlarge Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash - CHRIS LIVERANI ON UNSPLASH
Chris Liverani on Unsplash
Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

With things opening back up and everyone tired of social distancing, conditions are ripe for a handshake comeback. And if people are anywhere near as incompetent at washing hands as they are at wearing masks, this may be inadvisable. 

It’s generally considered rude to decline an extended hand, but some of us have been successfully avoiding handshakes for years without anyone noticing. If you didn’t know people did this, it’s only proof that it works. 

Anyone with experience in this art knows that in order to avoid a handshake undetected, you have to be proactive. Smiling and saying “hello” doesn’t cut it. You have to take decisive, planned action to prevent the hand from being extended in the first place because once it’s out there, you’ll have to compromise either your health or social standing.

In the interest of public safety, here are a few proven strategies for avoiding a handshake with minimal awkwardness:


  1. Wave. The single best way to avoid a handshake is to initiate the greeting with a wave. If you can stick your hand in the air and wiggle it around before they can stick their hand out toward you, you’re set. A wave stops an extended hand in its tracks. The gesture becomes slightly more awkward if you do it after they’ve already extended their hand, but it still works.


  2. Full hands. If you’re carrying around something in your hands, people are less likely to extend theirs for a handshake. If you’ve got small children, this is easy to pull off. You can even enlist older kids in the process by taking their hand in yours, but this stops working at a certain age. Those without kids might find it cumbersome to carry large objects around in an attempt to avoid shaking hands, but it’s an option. Holding a purse or bag can work; also having a phone in your hands, particularly if you are using it. This tactic only works if the person greeting you is both observant and thoughtful, so it’s not fool-proof.


  3. Play sick. No one will want to touch your hand if you cough or sneeze into it while in their view. Blowing your nose is equally effective. As a bonus, if you wave with the tissue still in hand they may also keep a six-foot distance. If you aren’t actually sick, learn to play up your allergies -- just don’t call them allergies -- and practice a believable fake cough. This strategy won’t make you look cool, but will get you out of a handshake.


  4. Distraction. If you find yourself facing an extended hand before you’ve had a chance to deploy any of these preventative measures, you can let a distraction interrupt the moment. Chase after your kid; suddenly recall a matter that requires immediate action; respond to something in your environment -- someone needing help or an impending danger to avert. This strategy requires quick thinking, but remember you just need a moment’s interruption. You can return your attention to the individual after they put their hand down and initiate one of the above protocols.


  5. Side eye. Of course, if someone extends their hand, you can always give them a strange look and loudly ask, “Oh, are you still doing that?” as if they are the weird ones, not you.

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