The history of the handshake can be traced as far back as Ancient Greece. A peaceful greeting, it was designed to show that neither party was carrying a weapon. In modern business terms, it perhaps doesn’t hold quite as dramatic a position. But it is a way of demonstrating a connection; an introduction; an agreement; a deal.
Many interview coaches or business “gurus” would often state that you could tell a lot about a person by the way they shook hands. Was it a firm, confident grip? Or was it a limp, ‘barely there’ shake? Statistically speaking, a handshake is more likely to help antagonistic discussions go smoothly. It also encourages a greater sense of trust and honesty between the involved parties. There is so much written about the psychology of the handshake, I could go on about that subject on its own for days.
But, in the wake of the Covid crisis, we’re all working from home (or, at least, trying to). The networking event or business seminar, for now, is a thing of the past. But, without them, and without the opportunity to connect with a business prospect via a face-to-face interaction and, of course, a handshake, how are we to make connections with anyone?
Perhaps the most obvious alternative is the video call. No matter what platform you prefer, we’ve all been taking our meetings and discussions online. And, if a handshake is supposed to reveal a lot about a person, getting to see where they’ve set up camp with their laptop can tell you even more.
And, for now, it’s probably the closest we’ll come to regular interaction with our colleagues and business contacts. So, it’s important to make the most out of your calls, in the way that you would with a conversation over a coffee or at a conference.
You may have to adapt your approach as it will be harder to read body language, and you may find yourself choosing your words more carefully to convey something that you normally would have achieved through gestures. The physical act of closing a deal – typically confirmed via handshake – will be no more than nodding in agreement and verbal affirmations between all parties.
Even as we ease the lockdown restrictions, it’s unlikely that many people will feel comfortable using the familiar greeting. It’s likely that – for the foreseeable future – the handshake will be relegated to the past. There is simply no way that a splash of hand sanitiser is going to make your colleagues or business contacts feel comfortable enough to engage in physical contact.
But does an elbow bump feel mature enough as a greeting? Does a nod of the head feel sufficient to close a deal? Is anyone even doing the foot tap thing that’s being suggested?
The business world – and the economy as a whole – has been turned on its head these past few months. The handshake is just one facet of this. It will be interesting to see what – if anything – takes its place.
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