Episode 25 – Today’s Hello, Handshake and Hug: Shifts in Social Etiquette

25: Today’s Hello, Handshake & Hug – Shifts in Social Etiquette | #walkwithme

“Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.” – Thomas Sowell   About This Episode:   In this episode of “#WalkWithMe” I share some thoughts about what social etiquette might look like in the ‘New Normal’ and offer ideas on which traditions should stay and which should shift.

“Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.”

Thomas Sowell

About This Episode:

In this episode of “#WalkWithMe” I share some thoughts about what social etiquette might look like in the ‘New Normal’ and offer ideas on which traditions should stay and which should shift.


There’s been a lot of talk lately about this ‘New Normal,’ and I wonder what norms around simple social etiquette in terms of connecting with people might need to shift. 

The other night I took my family to a beach in Southern California to check out the Bioluminescent Waves, a natural phenomenon that causes the waves to glow in neon blue. Due to the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, we couldn’t park at or sit on the beach, and as I saw all the pockets of people wearing masks, I thought about how social norms are changing and wondered what they should be in the days to come. I mean, are we going to ever get back to a point of high-fiving or shaking hands when we meet? What will be the new social norms in the workplace or at public gatherings?

I believe that the foundation of our longstanding social norms comes down to CARING. At the root of why we do what we do comes down to a foundation of social norms based on these three core things we genuinely care about: 

  • Our Community as a whole 
  • Each other (our relationships, safety, security, mutual respect)
  • Ourselves 

The bedrock of social etiquette is making sure we protect and respect our community, one another, and our individual self on all levels – physically, mentally and emotionally. 

We then wrap simple practices around those to create a sense of belonging. 

Let’s talk basics in terms of how we greet each other and communicate. For example, right now, a lot of us don’t know what to do when we pass people on the street. Wave? Say ‘Hello’? Immediately turn our head and clear distance? My morning walks are interesting in that when I walk by people, sometimes it’s an awkward moment.

I think some of the social norm basics should still apply—like eye contact. Last time I checked, you can’t get the virus from looking at somebody. In fact, I think eye contact is more important today than ever before. It instantly establishes a connection. 

Smiling should also stay. It’s an energy (eyes light up, etc.)—and it doesn’t matter if we’re wearing a mask. Try this: Put your mask on and then smile at somebody. You’d be amazed that they’ll smile back, even without seeing your smile. 

The practice of handshakes should probably shift. Absence of them might lead to some awkward moments when you meet somebody, and I’m not sure if the solution to that is a virtual high-five. I think there needs to be something that establishes trust and belonging, without necessarily getting physical. We might not have all that figured out yet, but let’s at least start a conversation about it. Let’s decide to be intentionally engaged and have active listening—it can go a long way in terms of creating connections. 

It’s important to remember that social distancing doesn’t mean emotionally or relationally distancing. We need to find new social norms that build connection and trust, so that we can connect together, feel together, grow together, rise together. It’s important that we are adaptable and flexible so we can maintain a level of caring for the community, for those around us, and for ourselves. Don’t be afraid to let go of what once was and can no longer be, and have more conversations like these. 

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