Dealing with when you are expected to shake hands

Hi, due to monstrous hand joint pain, am looking for tips on how to deal with hand shaking situations in work/ personal life where people expect you to shake and it is awkward not to - or you have to say sorry I can't and immediately put yourself in category of 'different/ something wrong with'. Awkward all round, finding it stressful

Anyone found a good technique?

thank you

12 Replies

  • Bumping fists is now acceptable. If Obama can do it, so can you!

    I used to have to do a lot of hand shaking, and often just popped one narrow strip of bandage round my hand and then nobody thought twice about not shaking my hand. These days I've more confidence so either hold out a fist or flat palm, or grab the other person's wrist rather than hand.

  • I wear an elastic wrist band around my wrist or elbow. This usually stops some one from extending their hand.

  • I take the initiative if I think someone is going to try to shake my poorly, aching hands.

    I raise & wave my hand in front of me & go overboard saying how lovely to meet you,or whatever you feel like saying ..then I say " I'm having a bad hand day."

    People usually reply to the greeting & continue a conversation & no one is embarrassed & there is no awkwardness!

    Good luck!

  • As i like to consider myself a gentleman i absolutely hated the fact that i had to do as you described, i was also a man who judged a man by his handshake although in the last few years i would have to say i was forced to restrict that judgement to business and even then sparingly, since after closing a difficult negotiation on behalf of a friend on a £48,000 Bentley the salesman tried to give me a "high five", i shuddered.

    I now have the good fortune or misfortune that i permanantly wear wrist braces and my hands are so distorted that it is impossible not to notice and my substantial electric wheelchair finishes off the picture. I still absolutely hate not being able to shake hands, but strangely less so now my excuse is so obvious. Maybe i have found an upside to RA becoming acute and chronic. Oh the irony.


  • If anybody goes to shake my hand I always give them my left hand and explain my right hand is too sore and deformed to use. Usually works a treat, just another setback with this horrid disease xxx

  • I used to offer my hand limply it really stopped the hand crunching corporate people insist on doing

  • Good post and answers. I cannot bear to shake hands now and hand bumps hurt too. I usually mutter something about my stupid hands.

    I rather like the idea of a quick plaster that you rip off later but not sure I will be organised enough to have one ready. How about waving ? Not v corporate but I am retired now so hey ho!

  • lots of helpful suggestions here. I used to opt for offering two hands in a welcome so they couldn't crush the side of my hand. Also wearing elastic bandage or brace will stop the full on crush. My other half still quite regularly tries to high five me though, which is odd after all these years of not being able to move my wrist like that 😊.

  • Oh I feel for you but I'm lucky there's not a lot of handshakes involved in my job. Unfortunately I work with adults with learning disabilities and often support them in the community. It's painful when someone interlaces their fingers with mine to walk around the shops for a couple of hours! 😩😩

  • I usually wear a pair of compression gloves which tends to make people think twice, also helps with swelling and pain, they are a godsend!

  • thanks for all replies, work in formal profession so bumps not poss. Have tried wearing splints but some people still go to shake regardless! I try to call ahead of meetings and warn someone to tell panel or whoever that I can't shake - it's the ad hoc unexpecteds I find most difficult to manage. Need to find a little phrase to pass it off easily. Someone mentioned grabbing the other person's wrist, not sure how this works, do you go in as if for shake but take their arm instead? I can't grip at mo which limits options

  • Depending on the association I either aim for the person's wrist, so avoiding the stronger handshake, which I consider inappropriate for a man to do with a woman anyway, or place left my hand on top of the shakers right which tends to throw them & they follow suit. It definitely avoids the pain!

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