Should We Fist Bump, Bow, or Shake Hands?

To shake, or not to shake.

Honor your comfort zone.

Safety rules.

The new greeting etiquette.

  • Approach a personal greeting with caution and an open mind. Don’t assume that the person you are greeting is comfortable with your preferred style of salutation.
  • Keep your personal distance to a few feet to help gauge the comfort zone of the person you are greeting, and to establish your personal space.
  • Start by asking: “May I shake your hand, give you a hug, etc.” — relevant to what you prefer. This is also a good time to share what you wish: “I’m comfortable with a hug and it’s great to see you.” Asking permission and providing clarity of expectations is the most appropriate and will honor both parties.
  • The elbow bump has the least amount of skin-to-skin contact (if both parties are wearing long sleeves) while the fist bump has less contact than a full handshake. Play around with what feels best for you.
  • Many Asian cultures initiate a greeting with a slight bow at the waist. It’s a sign of honor, respect, and recognition for the person you are greeting and assures personal space between the parties. This greeting is becoming more mainstream.
  • The hug breaks the boundaries of personal space but can be welcomed by many, especially after such a long time apart. It’s essential to ask for permission since an unwanted hug is never appropriate — endemic or not.
  • The palm-show cue, according to anthropologist David Givens, is a “no fear greeting” that works in all cultures. Simply bend your right forearm along your side and display your open palm. This “I come in peace” gesture is welcoming and contactless.

Give grace.

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