Will the handshake as a form of greeting or closing the deal go away?


Fact Box

  • In research published by Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2018, scientists found that this simple ritual of shaking hands to close the deal was found to improve the outcome negotiations for both parties.
  • In 2015, Forbes categorized peoples’ handshakes in seven spectacular descriptions: 1. The limp noodle, 2. The bone crusher, 3. The fancy fool, 4. The Lingerer, 5. The rusher, 6. The look away, 7. The perfect handshake.
  • During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the fist bump was promoted as a “nice replacement of the handshake.” 
  • Since 2014, doctors have been openly writing about eradicating the handshake from the medical and hospital setting, and circulating studies on the dangers of spreading viral disease via the handshake.

Noah (Yes)

The handshake is history, and eliminating it will save lives. Proven to be a dangerous form of human-to-human transmission, handshakes are one of the primary vectors of spreading viruses responsible for flu and many other diseases.

Dr. Anthony Fauci on the Coronavirus Task Force wants the ritual ended forever, saying, 'I don't think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you. Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease, it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country.'

Fauci is joined by Peter Pitts, former FDA associate commissioner, who says the famous Beatle hit song lyrics should now be, 'I wanna, um, but I better not, hold your hand.' Some historians cite ancient Greeks as the handshake originators. Later, Quakers popularized it in the 18th and 19th centuries. From its inception, the handshake symbolized peace. To prove they weren't concealing weapons, two people would shake hands when meeting for the first time.

So what will be our new 'handshake'? A nod, a hand over our heart, a tip of the hat? In many countries, such as in India, one person greats another with a prayer-like gesture, speaking the word, 'Namaste.' It is powerful, respectful, and above all, hygienic. Even President Trump recommends it above handshaking. So say goodbye to the common handshake. To 'press the flesh' will soon be a thing of the past. Generations in the future, knowing full well what we know now, will probably wonder why we ever did it at all. 

Demi (No)

In Benjamin Franklin's famous words, 'The handshake of the host affects the taste of the roast.' The handshake as a form of greeting, settling a dispute, or closing the deal is as old as time. The history of 'the handshake' is somewhat unknown, but the earliest reports include 5th century Greece and medieval Europe where a handshake was considered as a symbol of peace – showing that both parties wielded no weapons or meant no harm.

Fast forward to today's world, and handshake culture is still one of the most common and global forms of greeting. It has successfully permeated many societies throughout the ages, carrying deeply complex meanings beyond mere pleasantries. In certain corners of the world, and in some industries, a person's handshake is just as good as a written contract. Businessmen, after discussing the nitty-gritty details of a contract, going back-and-forth, finally reaching a middle ground, will shake on it. A firm handshake has been considered weighty enough that paperwork could be sorted later.

However, with the existence of 'snake oil salesmen,' (or fraud) who might trick those who have long respected the handshake culture in business proceedings, along with the COVID-19 global pandemic—which has birthed the practice of social distancing and self-isolation—some speculate society will finally do away with the handshake. But handshake culture has survived several pandemics and frauds. With a solid track record of over 1500 years, there is and always will be significant value in the handshake – as a greeting and the known gesture for sealing a deal.

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