Elbow to Elbow Greeting

What Will Replace the Handshake?


I have a lot of great childhood memories. One that really sticks in my mind? Learning how to shake hands. Uncle Craig, my mother’s youngest brother, would line up my cousins, sister and me as he taught us a proper handshake. I never understood the importance as he approached us one by shaking our hands and offering feedback like:

  • Gripping to hard
  • Too soft
  • Too many pumps
  • Didn’t hold it long enough
  • Oh, that hand shake was perfect

As I got older and entered the business world, a new appreciation of the handshake emerged as I shook lots of hands and thought:

  • That was too hard
  • And that one too soft
  • Too many pumps, please let go
  • That was quick
  • Ahh, finally, a good handshake

I stood taller when someone told me, “You have a great handshake.”

Like all worthy activities, practice makes a handshake better.

Why Handshakes Matter

At business events, handshakes (and hugs for that matter) are an extension of you. A non-verbal outreach that says “I see you” or “welcome”. A physical connection before an emotional one. A first impression before getting to know you.

  • Too strong says aggressive
  • Limp or soft says I don’t care or I don’t think you can handle it
  • Too short suggests I don’t have time for you
  • The perfect one though, it’s mindful, present, connected

Match that with a smile and some eye contact and you have a recipe for relationship success.

The Future of the Handshake

But now? The handshake (and hug) are, for the foreseeable future, gone. First, who knows when we’ll gather in large (more than 10 people) groups again. Second, when we do, how will we greet one another? What action will we use to reach out? 

Alternative Handshakes

I’ve asked this question of friends, family and colleagues and many answers arise (as illustrated to the right):

  • Fist bump
  • Foot bump
  • Elbow to elbow
  • Simple wave
  • Bow and say Namasté (As a yogi, this is my favorite. So, get ready for it! Namasté is spoken at the end of yoga class and means in simplest terms: the light within me honors and sees the light within you.)

Settling into the Unknown

This week I don’t have any solid answers. I continue to live in questions.

There is still so much that is uncertain and unsettled. But if there is one thing I know, the way we greet one another and make connections in our digital and distracted world, has changed.

I for one, miss the handshake (and the hug!). I guess it’s time to line up the nieces and nephews and show them a new way to say “hello”.

Your Turn to Talk to Me

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you will replace the handshake (or hug) in business meetings or events. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.


1 Comment

  1. […] the world shut down in March 2020, people wondered “will the handshake go away?” Will we remember how to talk to people? Meeting in person will be so […]

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