Handshaking for Business, is that Smart?
When we look at how technology has shaped the way we do business in the
last 20 years, we seem to forget how business was done before
technology became integrated into our everyday lives.
Conducting business during the last century was based on building
relationships, face to face meetings with firm handshakes, verbal
commitments and being part of an inner circle of business friends.
Connections usually were gained through handshakes with contacts at clubs, social activity with friends and relatives. While this type of networking is still important in today’s times
when doing business, the internet has opened a new way of gaining
business. At one time it was not possible for the ordinary business
to participate without incurring the huge expense of travelling and
time commitment. That is no longer the case.
Handshakes today carry a different meaning altogether when doing business. People are generally more careful who they shake hands with; caused by the mass publicity about sterilization and hand washing to avoid deadly viruses. In doing business, I have come across situations where instead of saying I don’t want to shake hands, they will say, oh, I have a cold today, and I don’t want to pass it on to you or they will have their hands full to avoid the situation entirely. Some places of business have sterilization products in their reception area. Since handshaking has been always a traditional North American practice in doing business, there really is no nice way to say I don’t want to shake hands without the other person not feeling offended.
While in some cultures it is acceptable not to shake hands but just bow as acknowledgement of business and others there is physical hugging and kissing of the cheeks. These have always been acceptable ways of doing business in those cultures but in North America we stick with the firm handshake. And now with the internet, some people are conducting entire business transactions from one side of the globe to other without ever having to meet in person or have any physical contact.
It seems that the North American tradition of having that firm physical handshake to do business does not hold true as much as it once did. With doing business on the internet, we are learning that we need to be flexible to change in adapting what we have commonly known to be traditional ways of doing business in order to succeed.
With some companies, they can count the number of times on one hand that they have physically shaken hands with someone in past three months. Even among my staff they probably have had no physical contact except by internet, email, courier and phone.
We need to be adaptable to the new ways of doing business with less physical contact, but also be sensitive of person’s phobia in shaking hands and perhaps say we don’t need to shake hands to seal the deal with a smile. We need to learn that to communicate effectively we always don’t need physical contact to develop business relationships.