Shaking Up the Handshake
Recently, I was alerted by my Apple News app that due to the recent impact of COVID-19, the handshake, along with other close contact interactions, may be disappearing from Western culture entirely. While this long-standing act of greeting has been a way of the world for centuries, it has represented everything from a symbol of peace to signifying a business transaction, and everything in between. I was discussing this article with a new colleague and friend recently, and we opened up the conversation that maybe the extinction of this gesture isn't necessarily a bad thing?
Health and safety concerns aside, I find myself wondering a lot about what lessons this pandemic is teaching us, specifically through the lens of social interactions. Certainly, this has changed the way that we interact with others in a magnitude of ways, professionally, personally, and otherwise. Handshakes have been interpreted at times, as a sort of "power move." Business leaders and professors often teach that a "firm handshake" is a symbol; a symbol of strength, honesty, grit, confidence, and power. But, with a global pandemic looming over us for an uncertain amount of time, it looks like this western tradition may be getting replaced.
Our society has certainly gotten creative over the last few months, trying to find replacement gestures. Some of them are funny and feel silly, others have just felt strange. I have given elbow "high fives" and "foot fives." I have awkwardly waved to friends from 6 feet apart, while just wishing I could reach out and give them a big hug. Everything is so weird and different right now. I can't help but observe all of the ways this upended chaos of our "new normal" is changing the way we greet and receive each other differently. Maybe this new way of life is teaching us that all we really need to connect with someone is a simple wave, some more eye contact, and a smile. Maybe instead of a new gesture to assert our authority or power, we need one that extends more humility and intention.
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