It was all so simple, a hand shake, a kiss on both cheeks with an extra one if in Switzerland… how times have changed, we pop up as self-conscious bobbing heads on video calls, if we go outside we feel we are being rude avoiding getting too close. The apple cart has been kicked over and we have lost some of the apples, things will not be the same again.
Is that a bad thing? Yes, the pandemic was /is a bad thing. But breaking out of a siloed way of behaving can be good, so I decided to list a few of the unspoken or “OMG what do I do now” moments in modern business and life.
Let start with something simple, the handshake, this has gone for the foreseeable future, but we do need a greeting some alternatives have popped up. The elbow came and went, as we are told to sneeze into our elbows so not a good starting point and difficult as you touch. The two front runners for me are the hand on heart that can be accompanied with a slight nod, heartfelt and symbolic.
The Second can be used both for greeting and leave-taking. Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. … In Hinduism, it means “I bow to the divine in you”. Which I feel is a lovely sentiment but maybe to eastern for some businesspeople.
For me I think the hand on heart seems to be getting traction as it does not have any religious connections. Both though I feel are heartfelt, unisex and feel more personal or genuine, that could be because we are getting used to it or after lockdown, we feel the desire to show more emotion?
Let’s go to my second subject and the title of this piece the “dance of COVID” this is the 2m distance when interacting with others. The first time I encountered this was during the height of the spike in April (UK), I went out for a walk and on the footpath, I was on there was a person coming towards me, he was listening to music in sports gear out for a brisk walk, me, jeans and sunglasses out for some fresh air, there was not enough space on the pavement for us to pass with a safe distance between us. What now?? I am isolating so I had to keep my distance, would he move or should I as he was exercising and I was strolling, would he think I was weird moving away? Then reality kicked in and I walk out into the road to give us both a safe distance, a broad smile broke out on his face as he mouthed “thank you” I felt massive relief at not offending but also being safe, I realised he was probably having the same thoughts as me – WE ALL ARE. I have now been to a shop, the garage and it’s about being clear and stopping, letting people through, the “put it on the counter and stand back” is still a little odd but a big smile or loud thankyou if you are wearing a mask really helps. The main thing to remember is the other person is probably as nervous as you and what we used to see as maybe rude, drawing back or avoiding is helping save lives.
The final part is meeting up, I’ve not had any business meetings off video calls yet, so let’s start with that. Waving, yes good old fashioned “wave hello” is a must I feel for zoom calls, few use it but if you wave people wave back.
Also, just the hand up with a purposeful “HI”
Either are great but neither is poor let’s connect or find news ways to great and part that give that human touch we crave but for the moment cannot have.
The final point for meeting up is the physical, I invited my sister round for a glass of wine and a chat, I set out a chair in the garden, one for me and the kids, so my sister knew exactly where to sit and where I was sitting so to ease that “what now” feeling. After chatting for 10 minutes the kids came and joined me, the joked as it was like we were in a row interviewing their Auntie. But it was about clearly setting guidance for distance and where to sit.
In summary, we are trying to replace intimate behaviours we have had for literally centauries, the handshake, the hug, the arm round shoulder so the replacements need to give us that human hit or buzz.
So be safe but make contact, whether a wave, a smile, Nameste or hand on heart be brave enough to try.
We are fed be human engagment.
Gavin W H Anderson
Founder N2 Collective