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It’s Nice To Meet You, But Please Don’t Shake My Hand

In our society, etiquette suggests that a strong, firm handshake is the way to go, the most appropriate way to shake another person’s hand.

But what happens when you have arthritis?

Lately I cringe whenever someone wants to shake my hand because it hurts.  It feels like someone is manhandling my joints, even though it lasts all of ten seconds.

But I don’t want to appear rude, so I deal with it.

I know there are some people with arthritis who put it out there that they won’t shake your hand under any circumstance.

I am not that ballsy.

It seems like an awkward conversation to have.

It’s nice to meet you, but please don’t shake my hand.

I have arthritis, so I can’t shake your hand because it hurts.  But I’m not being rude.

So many caveats.

And it seems to me that someone might feel snubbed if they put their hand out to shake yours and you don’t put your hand out to shake theirs.

I suppose you could gain some street cred by fist bumping everyone you meet as opposed to shaking their hand, but that might just be a little too gangster for everyday life.

So as I begin interviewing for internships, I find myself in a bit of a bind.

Usually interviews begin and end with a handshake, and while maybe it shouldn’t, a lot of people view your handshake as a proxy for your candidacy as an employee.

I don’t fully understand the significance of a handshake, but it goes far back enough that it seems odd to try and question the practice.

But for those of us with arthritis, it is something that we have to question if it causes us pain and discomfort.

It may also be anxiety provoking if you know you are going to be in a situation that necessitates handshaking, and you don’t want to appear rude or standoffish, but you don’t want to shake hands.

So what do you do?

Any other solutions out there besides fist bumping to gain street cred?

What do you do or say?  How do you get out of the situation without destroying the relationships or interaction?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Dan Pittman
    6 years ago

    Depending on the situation I will either grin/cringe and bear it or grab the persons hand with both my hands, greet them and make the comment that my hands are tender and I can’t grip as well as I use to.

  • Eva McCue Wilson
    6 years ago

    I used to cringe when people would reach out to shake my hand. Since my right hand has had more damage and pain than the left,I have learned to respond with my left hand. If they notice this or get offended, I am not responsible for their reaction, but most people look a little surprised and not seem to mind it at all. I also belong to a 12-Step group and we hold hands at the end of the meeting and say the Lord’s Prayer. I started asking if I could put my arms around their waist instead of giving them my hands to hold. Now I give them my hands and ask them “please don’t squeeze my hands, I have arthritis.” I have to respect and put myself first. As long as I do this in a kind way, no one seems to get offended.

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