What to Do Instead of a Handshake

What should you do when you can’t shake someone’s hand? When you are trying to avoid:

  • Germs
  • Touch
  • The Corona Virus

Our goal is to come up with a way to nicely greet someone and still avoid the hand-to-hand.

Here is your anti-handshake guide.

How do you politely decline a handshake?

The best way to politely decline a handshake is to pre-empt it with something else, like a footshake, fist bump, smile and wave, or nod. Whether you are avoiding germs or too much touch, I’m going to give you some options for avoiding the handshake.

As long as you make someone feel acknowledged, you can nicely avoid a handshake.

But, is it ok not to shake hands?

While handshakes are wonderful for rapport building, there are certain situations where it is ok to avoid a handshake, like: an epidemic, if you dislike touching, or in a location where a cold or flu is going around.

Here are your options for politely and non-awkwardly avoiding a handshake:

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Option #1: The Nod

The best way to avoid a handshake is to help someone feel acknowledged BEFORE they go in for the shake. When someone is approaching you and at least three feet away, give them the nod:

This shows them you have already acknowledged them and are less likely to reach out for a handshake.

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Option #2: The Smile & Wave

Another great option is giving someone a big smile and a generous wave. This shows them you are happy to see them and they are being acknowledged (but hopefully won’t go in for the handshake).

Add a little eyebrow raise for a little extra charisma.

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What is a footshake? It is a simple way of greeting that replaces a handshake by tapping your foot with another person’s foot.

This one is pretty creative if you can get someone on board. It’s a simple foot kick:

With this one you might have to do a little explanation — but once someone is onboard it is a great way to get some laughs and a little exercise too 😉. Say something like…

“Let’s avoid the germs and do the kick greet. Here, tap my foot!”

It might honestly replace the handshake one day.

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Option #4: The Fist Bump

This one is my least favorite because it could still potentially spread germs (or involves touch if you are not into touch). But it can work. The key here is to make the fist while at least 3 to 5 feet away.

Be super duper clear you want a fist bump. Just hold it up and wait. 

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Bonus: Air Hug

I’m a big fan of air hugs. 

Sometimes if I see someone coming at me with those big open arms (and a runny nose), I take a step back and yell:

Air Hug!

And then we give each other imaginary hugs from five feet away… and giggle because it’s silly but still feels nice.

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How to Avoid a Handshake

The most important thing if you want to non-awkwardly avoid a handshake is show someone your intention BEFORE they initiate the handshake (that’s where it gets awkward). 

  • You could shout “don’t touch me!” at someone as they approach.
  • You could hold your hands behind your back and slowly back away.
  • …But better is to try one of the steps above and say something like “let’s be germ free, friend!”

You got this! In times of viruses and weird touch rules, sometimes you need another option for greeting. Hope this helps!

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How to Do a Non-Awkward Handshake

When you are ready to start handshaking again, please use our perfect handshaking guide!

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