Stop Shaking Hands?

stop shaking hands

Reduce the Spread of Viruses



I’m walking into a conference and one person after another is shaking my hand. Standing in a trade show booth for hours, I shake hands, return hugs, and even several kisses (one on the cheek in the United States; one on each cheek in Europe; and one, the other, and then the first if I am in the Netherlands). All the while, I am thinking germs.

When the person giving announcements at the church pulpit says to greet those around you, I try to hide the expression on my face so as not to be rude. It’s wonderful to greet people and be welcoming, but I’m thinking once again about the potential viruses lingering on my hands.

You can say that I’m a germophobe, and that’s not a label I run from.



Everywhere we go, the handshake or greeting is part of our culture. It brings us together.

At the same time, I have long admired an Asian greeting that is completely different. I’ve often thought it would be preferable to adopt the practice and bring it to the West. It’s kind, respectful, and best of all, it doesn’t encourage the spreading of sickness.

And why not now? This is far from a normal year.

People are in a near panic as coronavirus fears spread around the world. As of today, COVID-19 is on every continent except Antarctica.

As if that’s not enough, the flu is particularly hard-hitting this year. Most experts will tell you that flu is a much bigger concern to most of us than COVID-19. I have spoken to some of those experts and I say, “Yes, but the flu doesn’t quarantine people on ships and hotels and restrict travel for weeks or months.” I’m probably more nervous about being trapped in a room somewhere than anything else.



Protect Yourself from Sickness

As the world wrestles with this new virus, and learns how to combat it, many people wonder what they can do to protect themselves from sickness. There are several things you can do:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
  • Cough into a tissue or elbow.
  • Use hand sanitizer.
  • Use disinfecting wipes for various surfaces.
  • Try not to touch your face and eyes.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Practice deep breathing.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Meditate


These are all tried-and-true methods to reducing your chances of spreading illness.



Borrow a Practice from Asia

But what about all of our western greetings?

What if we were different and borrowed a practice from Asia? When I visit the beautiful Kingdom of Thailand, I am always struck by the greeting. With a warm smile, the person will press their palms together and slightly bow the head forward until their fingers almost touch their nose. It is a slight bow.



It’s called the Wai.


If you think I’m crazy, that’s OK. But what about considering it as a temporary alternative to shaking hands or other greetings? What if, just for this season, we adopted it in the West?

Instead of shaking hands, hugging, and kissing, try it. I guarantee that, if nothing else, you will find yourself smiling as you nod your head. To me, it also shows respect at a deeper level. And wouldn’t we be better off in a world with more of that?


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