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Most Boston real estate deals involved a handshake along the way, either when people first meet or when a deal has been reached. But the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked “shakephobia,” where many people feel skittish about resuming the shaking-hand tradition.

Handshake, Fistbump, etc… or Nothing at All

When it comes to COVID-19 spread, that phobia is grounded in reality. Studies suggest that a handshake transfers four times the amount of bacteria as a fist bump.

Still, not everyone avoids handshakes. This leaves some Boston real estate professionals in an awkward situation that requires them to politely decline an extended hand.

The alternatives that grew out of the pandemic – elbow bumps, foot taps, and air high-fives – may not seem like very professional alternatives. That has prompted etiquette experts to propose some business-setting alternatives to the handshake.

Deflect not decline

A recent article at Reader’s Digest says the key is not to decline a handshake, but to deflect it. And in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, three doctors suggested alternatives to the handshake: waving, putting your hand over your heart like you’re about to make a pledge or holding your hands in the “namaste” prayer position in the front of your chest.

One doctor said he even put a sign up that was light-hearted but got the point across. It read: “Handshake-free zone.”

If the other person still extends their hand, by placing your hand over your heart and leaning forward a bit instead of accepting it. 

Source: “How to Politely Avoid Shaking Hands and What You Might Try Instead,” USA Today (June 18, 2020); “The Polite Way to Get Out of Shaking Hands,” Reader’s Digest (March 26, 2020); and “How to Politely Decline a Handshake,” Quartz at Work (March 6, 2020)

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