I offended people today. A split second later, everyone was okay and I had their undivided attention.
I'm facilitating leadership development for the next couple of days and I usually greet each participant with a smile and a handshake. Today, I refused the offers of hands to shake on the grounds of social responsibility. I'm still struggling with a head cold and so my hands are constantly handling tissues that I've used and covering my mouth and nose when I sneeze and cough, if I don't have a tissue handy. I know that a lack of hand hygiene is one of the best ways to share germs.
The reaction of people whose hands I refused to shake, was interesting. After an initial moment of uncertainty and offence (in one case), I was then thanked for my consideration.
I know how I've felt when offered the hand that I've just seen used to wipe a nose or a mouth, or handle a used tissue: I don't want to shake the hand. Being put in a position where the dirty hand is offered and then it's shake or refuse, is awkward. I'd say it's far better to be proactive and protect others by being as mean as possible with your germs.
I also hope that those whose hands I didn't shake today will consider their own actions the next time they are afflicted with a head cold.
Something else happened as a result of my choice today. The first impression people had of me was of a considerate and respectful person - because I didn't shake hands. It seems counter-intuitive, but shows that sometimes it's worth consciously breaking with convention.
I'm off - the tissue box is calling.
when do you shake hands?