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Social Graces: How to tell people you don't want to shake hands because of the coronavirus

By Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: How should you tell people you don't want to shake hands or have other physical contact because of coronavirus?

A: Misery does not love company. With more questions than answers, the world is feeling the effects of the coronavirus. But whether it's this new disease or the common cold, always be considerate when you're in public spaces. A handshake is risky business, so lead by example.

At this stage of the disease, reduction of any physical contact is recommended, thus the handshake has been replaced by germ-free gestures. Some acceptable germ free gestures to use instead of shaking hands are: an air kiss, royal wave or a namaste greeting. (Apparently, elbow bumps are now out.)

Although the handshake is a natural physical greeting, COVID-19 is a perfect example of how etiquette is evolving. It's almost impossible not to have physical contact when greeting someone, and up until a couple of months ago, the handshake was an accepted form of communication. Not anymore. The handshake is on hold for what could be an indefinite period of time.

Here are four ways to tell someone you're not comfortable with physical contact or shaking hands without being offensive:

1. I'm happy about not spreading any germs that I might have and doing my small part in shutting down this person-to-person disease.

2. I recently got over a cold and still don't feel comfortable with physical greetings.

3. It's odd not shaking hands, but because everyone else is avoiding it, it feels like the new normal.

4. It feels funny to refuse someone's hand, but at least there's a medically acceptable reason for it.

 

- Lisa Grotts, the "Golden Rules Gal" and etiquette expert

A: As a stand-up comedian who shakes hands and shares microphones with dozens of people a week, and as a woman who has spent a lifetime trying to avoid unwanted contact from strangers, here are some tips:

Be honest. Everyone is up to date on how quickly this virus is spreading. Simply telling people, "I'm trying to keep my hands to myself for the next few weeks" or "I just washed my hands" should be enough for anyone who has read the news in the last month. If that doesn't work, just start coughing wildly, and watch the good folks scatter.

Initiate a no-touch alternative to shaking hands with an air five, bro nod or simple, unflinching eye contact for 10 to 15 whole seconds. The last one will help you avoid that person indefinitely.

Ask your boss to send out a memo requesting that everyone be aware of body boundaries, and that unless people explicitly ask you to touch them, you shouldn't. This step is also known as: The Section in Your Employee Handbook About Harassment.

Please also keep in mind the importance of staying at home if you're feeling sick, cleaning "high touch" surfaces frequently, and washing your hands throughout the day. Hand washing should be done for about the length of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. If it's your actual birthday, throw in an extra round for yourself.

- Alex Kumin, comedian and writer

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

(c)2020 Chicago Tribune, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

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