With the recent worldwide events, shaking hands has become almost obsolete. And it should stay that way forever. Let me tell you why. COVID-19 has us all taking extra precautions when interacting with other people, from wearing homemade t-shirt masks to staying at least 6 feet away from everyone. Banks are limited to drive-up services, some grocery retailers are allowing for a “one in one out” policy to combat the spread, restaurants are take-out and delivery only. Everyone is working from home, and everyone is going stir crazy. But when all this settles down and we all go back to normal (whenever that may be), you should still stop shaking peoples’ hands.
Shaking hands dates all the way back to Ancient Greece. The first evidence of it is found on a headstone from around 5000 B.C. It was actually originated as a literal shake to be sure the person you were encountering didn’t have any weapons up his sleeve, no pun intended. As times and people evolved, the handshake is almost automatic when meeting someone for the first time, and has come to solidify business agreements and friendly bets alike. Weak handshakes are said to represent weak character. Compliments on a “good handshake” are common, especially to women.
Now for the gross part. The average human hand carries 3,200 bacteria from 150 species. commonly including fecal bacteria. Yes, that’s right. Poop particles are on almost everyone’s hands. A study performed in 2013 by Michigan State University showed that after using a PUBLIC restroom, only 5% (FIVE PERCENT) of people washed their hands well enough to eliminate germs, while 15% of men and 7 % of women didn’t wash their hands at all. Even in healthcare settings, only about 40% of doctors and nurses wash their hands correctly.
How many times have you heard “Wash your hands!” as of late? I hear it 20 times a day, at least. Washing your hands correctly and for the proper amount of time, is the best way to stop the spread of germs. And as studies have shown, most people aren’t doing it correctly. If you’re looking for more information, this article from the CDC will help, but I think we all learned in Kindergarten how to wash our hands. (Remember: Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice!) Unfortunately when shaking hands, you’re usually not just shaking your own. So even if you have the most perfect hand washing routine and wash them every time you touch anything ever, that doesn’t mean whoever you’re shaking hands with has been washing their hands. Just like in winter driving, I’m worried about the other drivers.
So, let’s test this no hand shaking thing out. Imagine the scenario, meeting someone new, ‘Hello, nice to meet you’ and their hand starts coming toward you, you start to sweat, you don’t want to seem rude but you don’t want to get sick! Do you put your hands in your pockets? Pretend you’re getting a phone call? It does seem like a conundrum, no one likes awkward situations, and this may be one of the worst ones. Simply explaining your stance on eliminating hand shaking should curb any anxiety or self-conscious concerns from the reaching party. Say something like, “I’m not shaking hands because I don’t want to spread germs.” You can practice some alternatives, a fist bump, maybe try bowing. That seems just as professional as a hand shake, and no touching! Whatever you decide to do instead, remember you’re doing a great thing in helping stop the spread of germs, not only for you but for more susceptible people. As my nana always said, Better Safe than Sorry!