Is Shaking Hands Too 20th Century in Today's Germophobic World?

Education & Training with Sell with Soul


Last year (or the year before? Egads), I wrote a blog called "Always extend your hand first" which encouraged the more introverted among us to always initiate the handshake instead of waiting for the other person to do it. Why? Because if the other person doesn't do it, and no handshake ensues, the relationship starts off awkwardly.

I got an email yesterday from someone who didn't agree with me (and that's always cool). She said that she's finding more and more people avoiding hand-contact upon introduction due to concerns about germs & flu's & such. So, she's decided never to initiate a handshake and let the other person decide the matter.

Hmmmmm. I'm a bit skeptical. While I'm no hand-shaking expert, I can't say that I've noticed any trend toward avoiding introductory contact. And I wonder if this reaction has more to do with the non-initiator's attitude toward touch than a concern over the other person's preference.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not disagreeing with or belittling my reader's opinion! Maybe she's onto something I've been too socially isolated lately to notice.

However, I believe I shall continue to initiate handshakes - I'd much rather take the risk of being rebuffed by my introductee, than of alienating a potential new friend or client.

Thoughts? Please share!!

The Savvy Prospector




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Comments (20)

Vickie Nagy
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate - Palm Springs, CA
Vickie Jean the Palm Springs Condo Queen

I think that upbringing and geography have something to do with this issue. Being from the south, hand-shakes are ingrained in our culture.

Aug 14, 2009 12:26 AM
Leslie Helm
Tennessee Recreational Properties - Jamestown, TN
Real Estate For Trail Riders

There's always SOMETHING to worry about! I, too have always initiated handshakes and probably will continue to do so, although I see alot of people reluctant to make contact. I'm sure the makers of waterless hand sanitizers are happy. Personally, I've always thought that he more germs you ingest (within reason), the better your resistance.

Aug 14, 2009 12:28 AM
Charlie Ragonesi - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros

You post is dead on. I experienced for the first time at a show in Florida 2 years ago sonme one who would not shake hands over a concern about germs. It was an odd feeling. But you know life is what it is and shaking hands is not going to alter it .

Aug 14, 2009 01:21 AM
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Vickie - funny - I just moved to the south and find that hand-shaking is too formal - everyone wants a hug!

Leslie - I agree 100%. I used to work at a doctor's office and I remember one guy getting all freaked out because when we cleaned his arm with alcohol, a lot of "dirt" showed up on the cotton ball. He was sure that we didn't get it all off and that he'd get an infection if we stuck the needle in his arm. But, uh, if he lives with that "dirt" on a daily basis, it's probably okay.

Charlie - If I have a cold, I'll keep my hand to myself, I think I'd rather take the risk of getting a germ than alienating someone.

Aug 14, 2009 02:17 AM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

I think men should shake hands.  I know this sounds sexist, but men relate different.  A hand shake is manly and yet provides touch.  It is also a bond and a confirmation of ones agreement.  With women a handshake is more social and is often done with more of a gentle taking of the hand. 

I am not a touchy feely person in general and I have trouble with the hugging that is more prevelant in our society (but not in business).  When I was in Spain the constant kiss on the cheek from women was something I had to get used to.

In any case, unless the person is dripping with a cold or burning up with fever, I do not worry about getting sick.

Aug 14, 2009 03:33 AM
Patrick Randles
Nova Home Loans - Tucson, AZ

What a bunch of germophobes! Buy some hand sanitizer if it is that big of a deal. I am with you on this one, Jennifer- you shakes hands with people and not the little fishy handshake, either.

Aug 14, 2009 03:45 AM
Shirley Parks
Sands Realty 210-414-0966 - San Antonio, TX
Broker, 210-414-0966, San Antonio TX Real Estate

Here, handshakes and even hugs... even business hugs... are common. :o)  If everyone becomes germophobic, we could all start giving a little bow (like they do in Japan) instead of a handshake.

Aug 14, 2009 03:47 AM
Larry Bettag
Cherry Creek Mortgage Illinois Residential Mortgage License LMB #0005759 Cherry Creek Mortgage NMLS #: 3001 - Saint Charles, IL
Vice-President of National Production

I saw this and thought....oh my gosh Jennifer is reaching for material (you probably are).  But then was thinking of two people I know who refuse to shake hands.  So a very fun and inciteful post!   My wife's a germophobe, but not to the extent of others.  My family has 5 Medical Doctors.  They say that you can be sooooooooooo germ free that you don't build up an immunity either.  Me?????  I'll eat off the floor if the food's good!  Just not the bathroom floor.

Aug 14, 2009 06:28 AM
Susan Haughton
Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545 - Alexandria, VA
Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results.

I haven't noticed this trend at all...and agree it is a little extreme.  Exposure to germs and dirt is a good thing for our immune system  - plus, there is always antibacterial gel if someone is uneasy.

Aug 14, 2009 07:27 AM
Bryant Tutas
Tutas Towne Realty, Inc and Garden Views Realty, LLC - Winter Garden, FL
Selling Florida one home at a time

It must be a Howie Mandel thing. I have yet to encounter anyone who would not shake my hand. In fact most prefer I give them a big old fashoined embrace. Yes...I'm a hugger!!! There I said it.

Aug 14, 2009 10:30 AM
Pat Argo
Keller Williams Realty of Brevard - Titusville, FL

     Having dealt with MRSA  for 7 months after a hurricane a few years ago, I can appreciate both sides of the coin/hand shake/hug issue(s) Jennifer. Born in Georgia and living all my life in Florida with a dad from Alabama, hugging was always the custom in most cases. back then. If there was something going around, generally a tip of the head and  a broad smile made up for not touching. Times were gentler and most folks were not always in such a rush! After the MRSA, I was phobic about it for quite awile. Now I just decide on a case by case and using my instincts which God gave me to keep me out of harms way.

     Maybe after this swine flu thing is over, we should start a resurgance of Hug buttons?

Aug 14, 2009 02:49 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Jennifer, Shaking hands for me is so natural and I am believer in a firm handshake. Yep, I do wash my hands quite often...but that comes from my RN training. Have not noticed anyone avoiding the handshake.

Aug 15, 2009 06:41 AM
Teral McDowell
Referral Patners LLC - Murphy, TX

Handshaking is a gesture of goodwill and I have noted that even in the south some reluctance to handshakes while others are still willing to greet you with a hug.

Aug 15, 2009 05:31 PM
The Somers Team
The Somers Team at KW Philadelphia - Philadelphia, PA
Delivering Real Estate Happiness

I am with you ! I am all for the initiation of the handshake and if someone else does it first, all the better as well.   Is a great way to establish rapport.

Aug 16, 2009 01:20 AM
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

Jennifer, I know it is hard for me to trust some one that doesnt shake my hand and look me in the eye. I always offer my hand...

Aug 17, 2009 02:50 AM
Ann Cordes
Century 21 Randall Morris and Associates, Waco - Waco, TX
Home Ownership is Not a Distant Dream

I'm with you Jennifer. I extend my hand first (unless they are quicker on the draw). As far as germ, i just wash my hands often and give others the benefit of the doubt that they do too.

A lot of peoples feelings were hurt when AIDS first became an issue because there was a mistaken belief that you could catch it from hugging some one with it. I am not going to hurt someones feelings by refusing a handshake. 

Aug 18, 2009 06:28 AM
Pat Argo
Keller Williams Realty of Brevard - Titusville, FL

     Steve Onikki was speaking at a meeting today. He provided a really great demonstration of the Hand Shake in his opening conversation. I first saw and heard him about 20-25 years ago. He is still so "on The Mark". Be sure to attend if you ever have the opportunity. He is now living in Sarasota. I'll be attending another program with him in September.

Aug 18, 2009 02:24 PM
Linda Jandura
Raleigh Cary Realty - Apex, NC
Realtor, North Carolina Buyer & Seller Specialist

Interesting blog and comments. I too would rather shake hands- not quite a hugger type yet.  I hadn't really thought of the idea of avoiding germs, but as a former nurse, I should have. Maybe in flu season we should carry around one of those little bottles of hand sanitizer.

Aug 19, 2009 01:18 AM
Brian & Marie Spray - Action Realty Group - Frisco, TX
Frisco TX Realtors

A good handshake it a fantastic way to set the stage for whatever comes next - whether its the handshake at first meeting, or the handshake to seal a deal - when you look the person directly in the eye and shake their hand with some feeling or emotion - gusto(?) it really means something and the client will appreciate that.

Aug 25, 2009 04:21 AM
Jonnie Wright


You're right on target! A handshake is critical to establishing connection and knocking down walls. I'm shocked when training employees at how many of them will simply refuse to do this simple task! There are a lot of excuses but no explanations - bottom line, touching is good for the soul, the mind, the heart and for business, period. Great post!

Feb 15, 2010 04:24 AM