You’ve been there before...desperately miserable from your hand pain, you see someone you haven’t seen in awhile or meet someone new...you know that it is proper protocol to reach out your hand for a handshake in order to greet this person. However, if your hands hurt, you most likely fear that this person is one of those who believes that a firm handshake is the only way. While you don’t want to offend anyone by declining their handshake, it can also cause some distress for you whether it be from the fear or actual pain from the handshake.
This thought leads to the question: Are there courteous alternatives or ways to decline a handshake?
If this is an actual concern for you, here are a few options to try the next time someone wants to shake your hurting hands.
- Be the First: If you extend your hand first, you have the opportunity to shake the way you need to. For instance, you can grasp their wrist to avoid a hand squeeze.
- Kindly Explain the Situation: It may be better to tell them that your hands hurt and that you need it to be a gentle one. You can say something like, “I want to shake your hand, but I will need it to be a light one because firm handshakes are painful for me”
- Create a Signature Greeting that Does Not Require Shaking Hands: Some examples include High 5s or fist bumps. This may not work in all situations but it may be sufficient in most cases.
- Find a Way to Avoid a Handshake: If someone sees you wearing a brace, they will automatically know that you have a hand issue and will more than likely change their approach. You can also hold something in your hand such as your phone, a drink, etc. This will also cause a natural signal that your hand is unavailable to shake.
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