If you have found yourself in an uncomfortable position, not knowing what to do while practicing social distancing etiquette, you are not alone!
From slightly strange to total absurdity, this post will give you some pointers on how to fit in with the times!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you.
Are you confused about what is acceptable when it comes to social distancing etiquette? Do you continually find yourself in awkward situations, not knowing how to greet someone or introduce yourself when some form of physical contact normally is expected? Does the idea of shaking hands or hugging make you feel uncomfortable? If so, you have come to the right place!
In this post, we will cover 21 helpful techniques for social distancing during pandemics and how to avoid putting yourself in embarrassing or offensive positions when being introduced to someone. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression and that chance lasts between 7 and 30 seconds!
This post is all about
social distancing etiquette.
The information in this post represents the opinions of the authoress only and is not a substitute for medical advice.
What Is Social Distancing Etiquette?
Social distancing is a term that was unknown until the winter months of 2020. The social distancing definition is the practice of avoiding physical contact or closeness in order to prevent sick people from spreading pathogens to healthy people.
The main purpose of social etiquette is to make others feel comfortable. In these days of biological uncertainty, when many of us are downright uncomfortable in any situation, it is important to do what we can to make others feel at ease while working within the bounds of what makes ourselves feel most comfortable.
When it comes to decorum, social distancing etiquette involves acceptable and appropriate conduct during situations wherein physical distance is necessary. Because etiquette concerns respecting the feelings of others, any consideration we can extend will help interactions run smoothly.
Social Distancing as The New Normal
Since the introduction of the twenty-first century pandemic, social interactions have been strained, modified, or avoided completely. Gone are the days–at least for now–of handshakes or kisses on the hand. Now we have a myriad of alternatives that range from slightly friendly to complete absurdity. (Some of these suggestions really are absurd!)
If there is one thing we have learned, it is the importance of physical interactions between people. We have seen the awkwardness and confusion that have arisen from social distancing. The removal of close conversational distances, handshakes, and hugs has left us with a need to restructure our social responses. Those restructures have left a lot to be desired!
F.E.A.R. – Frightening Environment: Actual Reality
Interestingly, the world seems divided when it comes to safety precautions and wellness concerns. Much of this is contingent on research and knowledge (or lack thereof), in addition to the avenue through which they have gathered this information.
Perhaps you have been on one side of the offensive handshake decline. Someone extends a hand, the other ignores it, declines it, or runs away. Something as simple as a rejected handshake has the ability to negatively impact impressions indefinitely.
Many people have concerns about getting sick, either from the virus itself, or from weakened immunity combined with comorbidities. Some people have frustrations that not everyone is following the same safety recommendations or social distancing policy. Other people feel annoyed that those safety concerns infringe upon their own ways of life.
When it comes to vaccines, some people have concerns about interacting with those who are not vaccinated, while others have very strong concerns about interacting with people who are vaccinated. Then there are some people who have no concerns at all.
While all may have legitimate reasons and concerns, the truth is that there still is much to be determined. The point on which we can all agree is that the world currently is divided and most physical contact likely will be avoided for a while.
Social Distancing Etiquette: The Temporary Techniques
It will take some time to return to the social etiquette we have known for centuries. For now, we have to proceed carefully. It is inevitable that meeting and greeting others will subject you to awkward and uncomfortable situations. Regardless of where you stand with your own concerns or beliefs, here are some helpful social distancing etiquette techniques that will enable you to feel safe and comfortable while helping others feel the same.
Whether you have concerns about germs, shedding, or no concerns at all, sanitizing after shaking hands can be helpful or harmful depending on the products you use. For years, we have known that some sanitizers kill both good and bad bacteria, which can reduce immune system function. Many hand sanitizers also are known carcinogens, which can further impact one’s health. If you have never heard of Young Living’s Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier, you are in for a treat.
You can carry these bottles in your pocket, on a keychain, or in a handbag for easy access. Simply shake the person’s hand, if you feel comfortable, then excuse yourself and apply a small amount of sanitizer to your hand. It is polite to wait until you are no longer in the presence of that person. You do not wish to make someone feel as though you are trying to avoid any germs they may carry, even if it is relatively obvious!
Young Living’s Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier is an incredible product! I always carry one of these in my handbag. It seems to be a much healthier way to get rid of unwanted bacteria by using a combination of natural essential oils including clove, lemon, cinnamon, peppermint, and rosemary. It has such a pleasant aroma!
Some people prefer to wear gloves often and others do not wear them at all. It is entirely up to you. You can pack a couple of pairs in your pocket or handbag and pull them out prior to entering a social setting. Clear vinyl gloves are a little less obvious than colored ones. You can also wear gloves of other materials, which can enhance your appearance overall.
These gloves are made of a thick vinyl and they are powder-free. They are extra strength and both food and industrial grade in quality.
If you wish to go for a more elegant and practical option, these are accessories that can be worn with most outfits. White is a smart daytime look, while black is extra sophisticated in the evening. These offer another layer between you and the other person, while also dressing up your wardrobe.
3. The Bow
The Bow is a formal greeting and show of civility and respect. You may briefly bend your head downward or bend your body at the waist toward the person. This is an excellent handshake alternative because the show of respect demonstrated by the bow leaves a very favorable impression.
4. The Nod
The Nod is a friendly gesture of acknowledgement and good will by moving the head downward and back up with a kind smile. In recent years, it has taken another form that is called the ‘Sup Nod, which is a reverse motion where the head moves upward and then back down. The nod, or head bow, is the preferred gesture of the two, with the downward motion of the head indicating humility and service. The upward motion of the ‘Sup Nod demonstrates arrogance, defiance, and superiority.
5. The Hat Tip
The Hat Tip is a gesture that every gentleman should include in his toolbox of manners. There are many circumstances wherein he should use this gesture. To perform the hat tip, a man touches the brim or the crown of his hat and lifts it from his head briefly before replacing it. This is a gesture of honor. Remember that a man’s hat is never worn at the table. Sunglasses are removed from the head at this time as well.
6. The Virtual Handshake
The Virtual Handshake is probably one of the more polite gestures in the absence of physical contact. In this situation, when someone extends a hand to you, you can exclaim, “Oh!” Then smile, extend your hand to nearly meet his, and say, “Virtual handshake!” Then you can move your hand up and down several times and pretend you are shaking hands. In this manner, the other person will completely understand how you feel and he will not feel snubbed. People can overlook many things when the intention is kindness. This is far better than standing there and not responding to someone! It happens often!
7. The Salute
The Salute is a gesture of honor or recognition. It also is a display of praise, kind wishes, or courtesy. Like the bow, the salute is one of the highest demonstrations of respect, especially when combined with a stiff, swift motion and click of the heels. This is a gesture that requires some practice to be performed properly, but this is an excellent gesture that a gentleman should always keep close at hand.
8. The Foot Shake
The Foot Shake is a simple and clever greeting that keeps people from having skin-to-skin contact while still making a physical connection. To perform this gesture, you may extend your foot to the person and say, “Foot shake!” Then the other person responds by gently brushing your foot with theirs. If you do not specify that it is a foot shake, the other person may not understand what you are doing. If the person is wearing nice shoes, this may not be a wise option.
[Related Post: Always Rise in the Presence of A Lady]
9. The Fist Bump
The fist bump is a twenty-first century revamp of the handshake. Simply extend your fist to meet the other person’s fist. It is a gesture that many men prefer to use. In my opinion, it is not very different from the rear end soccer slap. During pandemics, however, the least amount of physical contact can be helpful.
10. The Elbow Bump
Similar to the fist bump or foot shake, the elbow bump is simply another physical form of engagement that avoids skin-to-skin contact. It shows someone that you are comfortable enough to allow him in your space, but that you are respecting any desires for distance.
11. The Wave
The Wave is a nice form of greeting, especially when there is some physical distance between two people. When people are close enough to shake hands and one of them wishes not to do so, however, this can be a little awkward. When gestured with a warm smile and a friendly tone, this is acceptable.
12. Jazz Hands
Jazz Hands is a dancing move that involves open hands with palms facing to the front with hands shaken, front to back repeatedly, from the wrist. This can be a rather silly way to greet someone, but in my opinion, it beats the Shimmy, which is another dance move that has become a popular handshake alternative!
13. Thumbs Up
The Thumbs Up is a gesture of support, approval, or encouragement. According to Merriam-Webster, its first known use was in 1892. Like the wave, this is an acceptable social distancing gesture to avoid shaking hands, as long as it is accompanied by a warm smile and upbeat tone.
14. The Point & Wink
The Point & Wink are not extremely friendly, but are more of a non-committal form of engagement. Although it is impolite to point, this is a popular gesture with some men.
15. The Name Tag Notice
People will do all sorts of things to avert danger and anything else that they desire to avoid. One option is to add a “handshake-free” message to your name tag. Be aware that people usually are shaking your hand while they are reading your name tag, so this may not work. It is worth a try. Remember to always wear your name tag on your right shoulder. This is because it is in line with the right hand people usually are shaking.
16. The Distraction
The Distraction is for those who feel entirely uncomfortable and just want to bail. This is not exactly polite, though it can be politely, but these are very strange times! When someone wishes to shake hands, hug, or kiss, you can come up with all kinds of ways for distractions. You might drop something, hand something to the person, say “Excuse me,” and quickly take a call, or some other creative way of getting out of the situation without making a scene or a bad impression. Always be friendly and smile.
17. The Declination
The Declination is an effective way of avoiding physical contact completely, and possibly ruining the chance of ever interacting with the person again. When someone attempts a physical greeting with you, a declination is a refusal to participate. It is comparable to ignoring someone entirely or rejecting them. This may help you accomplish your goal, but it also is likely to backfire. It can be done with good form, as seen by Horse Seehofer in response to Angela Merkel’s offer to shake hands.
18. The Explanation
Some people prefer to explain their standpoints, whether they are uncomfortable with germs, with people who have not been vaccinated, or with people who have. The explanation is not necessary, but sometimes appreciated. Take note, however: If you attempt to explain after having shunned someone’s desire for a handshake, it will not make the situation more pleasant. If you desire to explain how you feel, this is best done after having bowed or curtsied, or given a virtual handshake, foot shake, or some other kind of warm greeting.
[Related Post: Always Rise in the Presence of A Lady]
19. The Virtual Hug
The Virtual Hug is an acceptable form of greeting with close friends or family, but is inappropriate for use with strangers. When gesturing the virtual hug, simply extend your arms as though you were actually going to hug, and refrain from advancing. You may also smile and say, “Virtual hug!”
20. The Air Kiss
The Air Kiss is for close friends and family, though people in some cultures still incorporate some form of air kiss like they do the virtual hug. Blowing a kiss is an affectionate greeting that demonstrates great fondness.
21. Video Chat social distancing
Video chats are the best and most comfortable way to greet someone when social distancing. There are fewer concerns when people can interact from the comfort and safety of their own living areas. It also removes the awkwardness of having to quickly decide the best course of action when presented with a situation to which you are unsure how to respond.
Now you should have a few new ideas about how to navigate the social environment during uncertain times!
Have fun, be friendly, and stay safe!