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Jacky Sherman

Northampton & Milton Keynes' Referral Marketing Specialist

07970 638857


Coronavirus And Changing Behaviours: Please Do Not Touch! HIDDEN

Thoughts from when I bought a new car ...

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Needless to say, the sales team at the car dealership were very attentive, helpful and friendly and by the complimentary coffee machine was a polite sign about their no handshake policy ...

Total refusal to touch doesn’t seem to feature in western culture!

Total refusal to touch doesn’t seem to feature in western culture!

copyright: franckito / 123rf

Of course, it was a direct result of the Coronavirus outbreak. Yet both of the salespeople made a point of offering their hand to me on arrival, and to confirm that deal before we left. All part of developing trust that is essential for the sales process. You can read more about the importance of touch in my blog post from a few weeks ago.

Even though their polite little notice was right in my eye line and earlier that day, I had freaked out when I learned that the virus had reached Milton Keynes, well it felt uncomfortable not to do so!

I needed to take part in a greeting ritual too. I had the need to be polite and build trust as I was buying an expensive item. This overrode the concern for my personal safety or sense of public duty not the spread this new disease. I dealt with that afterwards by washing my hands, so as far as I know from this encounter, you don’t need to avoid me as a carrier of the plague.

However, as this disease spreads remorselessly, Facebook abounds with stories of a breakdown in trust with people looking warily at each other on the train, in queues and gatherings. So, we’re now looking for new ways of establishing that trust at the beginning of our encounter.

"Interestingly, our history suggests that if this disease was to actually develop into a pandemic, whatever we choose will become the new norm!"

Did you know that the English reluctance to being kissed as a greeting stems back to a ban on the habit introduced by King Henry VI in 1439? This was in response to the Bubonic Plague sweeping across the country, and so the firm handshake was born.

Are we now going to see a change in our behaviours, expectations and rituals when meeting and greeting? What are the alternatives we will go through during a period of experimentation? And we see that happening already. From fist bumps, elbow touches to the tongue in cheek Wuhan Shake (the video of which reminded me for some reason of Morris dancing). Now, there’s a thought.

Total refusal to touch doesn’t seem to feature in western culture, although there are cultures which have long histories of no-touch greetings. The Japanese bow and the Hindu Nameste for example. However, these are still formal rituals and not just a refusal to touch. I’d love to know their origin.

What seems to be emerging is summed up by Terrett Drake a New York businessman in the New York Times. While he will no longer shake hands with people he doesn’t know, Mr Drake said he is continuing to hug those he does, acknowledging the illogic. "I don’t know why I still feel comfortable touching friends," he said. "Maybe it’s a false sense of security? I am sure a stranger will give this to me if it happens.". Hmmm, the link between touch and trust is incredibly strong.

My tactic is to go back to what we were taught as children and yet don’t practice as often as we could when out and about. I'll wash my hands before and after eating and drinking, also on arriving and leaving a venue, and replace handshaking with whatever norm is developing in that social group.

"I must confess the ankle hacking Wuhan Shake is my favourite. I may try it at my networking meetings over the next few weeks!"

I’ll leave you with one more suggestion that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Why don’t we emulate the Queen and return to the 1950s? We could revert to wearing gloves. As I pursued that line of thought further, I couldn’t get past disposable gloves which would just add to the plastic pollution we are trying to deal with. Sadly, material gloves are fiddly to wash and would disintegrate quite quickly. The best solution I could come up with is that we should all wear those heavy-duty reusable Marigold gloves.

Yellow wellies for hands! What do you think?

Until next time ...


Would you like to know more?

If you'd like to find out more of my thoughts about changing behaviours, call me on 07970 638857, leave a comment below, or click here to ping over an email and let's see how I can help.

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About Jacky Sherman ...


I help people build and maintain productive working relationships both with their work colleagues and with a wider network to win more business. I do this by combining my skills in coaching, mediation and training with my extensive experience in senior management.

What I love most about my work is when my clients get those a-ha moments because I know they have seen for themselves the way that they want to move forward. Then they will achieve their ambitions.

Helping people who are having challenges with their working relationships gives me enormous pleasure. It was my privilege when working in health care to see how people working together can make the impossible seem easy and accomplish miracles as a result.

So helping people build or restore strong relationship with their colleagues makes even the hardest work easier, alleviates distress for the individual and reduces problems for the whole organisation.

In all this work trust is an essential ingredient to winning business so most of my work comes through referrals. Referrals come through strong business relationships so it was a natural extension for me to work with Ascentiv and train others in how to get consistent and predictable referrals from their network.

What a fantastic way to earn a living!


07970 638857