Have you chosen your new handshake?

First the business card went by the wayside, now the handshake looks set to do the same. alan. MD Richard Hadler explores the alternatives.

A handshake says a lot about you. A firm handshake says you’re confident, in charge, competent. A weak handshake, well, nobody enjoys a weak handshake.

These days the mere thought of a handshake may send you reaching for the hand sanitiser. Like the business card before it, the handshake stands on the brink of obscurity. So, it’s probably worth considering your alternatives.

However, the handshake is a powerful thing.

Historians date the origins of the handshake back to ninth century B.C. where a relief depicts the Assyrian King Shalmaneser III shaking hands with a Babylonian ruler to seal an alliance. 

The act has taken many meanings over the years. A symbol of trust in Homer’s Odyssey, friendship on Roman coins. And in modern times? Confirmation of a cake well baked.

Step forward the Hollywood handshake of Bake Off fame. Everyone who steps into that tent is itching to firmly clasp Paul Hollywood’s hand as they stare deeply into his baby blues. Approval, old blue eyes and cake. To be honest, who wouldn’t want that? 

Handshakes can also be a powerful political tool. Infamous handshakes of recent times have included French President Emanual Macron’s protracted white-knuckled grip of Donald Trump at the 2017 G7 Summit. 

The interaction was a significant power play by the 39-year-old who wanted to establish himself as a serious player on the world stage. Much was made of the 25 second-long handshake which only ended after two failed attempts to disengage by Trump.

Some things, it seems, haven’t changed much over the centuries. The ritual is still embedded into everyday life — whether you are the man on the street or a contestant on a baking show.

B2B has traditionally relied heavily on personal relationships forged through long lunch meetings and boozy conference networking drinks. However, Zoom has allowed businesses to talk to their clients in their own homes — there’s nothing more personal than chatting to someone as their small child demands snacks. 

It’s yet to be seen whether virtual events have met the need for ‘in-person’ interactions. Will the desire for doing business with someone you have met in the flesh win out? Even so, it will be a while before vaccinations roll out across the population is complete — notwithstanding the challenges international events will face.

Instead, it looks like the business lunch/dinner/drinks will be the first to return. From 17 May indoor hospitality will return. When it does, you’d better have your new ‘handshake’ at the ready. There’s nothing worse than going in for the handshake only to be rebuked at the last minute. Toddlers all across the land will tell you that.

So what are your options? Thankfully, alternatives have sprung up across the globe. Here are my top three options:

  1. The elbow bump

Boris is a particular fan of the elbow bump. He has been seen elbowing NHS workers up and down the country for the past year. 

  1. The air high-five

Masterchef contestants have adopted the air high five. A high-risk strategy that requires an overt amount of eye contact to get the timing right.

  1. The Wuhan shake

Residents of Wuhan have taken to touching feet in what has become known as the Wuhan shake. My personal favourite, it makes any meeting fun.

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