Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Topic started by: GrammarNerd on October 22, 2012, 08:48:30 AM

Title: Dealing with an 'Ewwww' graciously and sensitively
Post by: GrammarNerd on October 22, 2012, 08:48:30 AM
In my church, there is a point in the service where we shake hands and 'share the peace.'  I've had colds before and have declined to shake, just citing the cold, and nobody had a problem with it (and actually seemed glad that I was refraining).  Yesterday, however, there was a situation, and it got me thinking about how to handle something like that graciously and sensitively.

There were some people sitting in the pew behind us, and the (approximately) teenage son had some sort of a developmental disability.  Later in the service, I saw he was wearing large headphones connected to an iPad.  Not sure if it was the headphones or something else, but something gave me that impression as we sat down. 

So we did the shaking hands and peace-sharing thing relatively early in the service.  I first addressed the row in front of me, and then when I turned around, the teenage boy was right there and I was going to shake hands with him.  But before I could, he took his hand and made a somewhat grunty sound while he wiped his open hand over his mouth and his nose.

My first, immediate thought (you know how fast a thought can flit through your mind?) was 'Ewww! How do I get out of shaking his hand after that?' I mean, I wouldn't even want to shake my own kids' hands after they did that.  Thankfully, his mother stuck her hand in front of him and just circumvented anyone shaking his hand, so all was well.

But it got me wondering....if the mom hadn't swooped in and the young man did want to shake my hand after that, how could I have gotten out of it graciously?  I don't know that he functioned at a very high level (throughout the rest of the service, he made various noises/grunts, and I noticed him rocking in his seat at one point) so I don't know that he would have understood it/been able to process it if I'd attempted to explain anything ('maybe you need a tissue...')

I'm sure it must be difficult for this mom and I'm sure that wiping action was just an involuntary tic of sorts.  So I wouldn't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.  But at the same time, I wouldn't want to shake the hand of anyone who has just wiped his mouth and nose with an open hand.  Keep in mind that this is a 'shake as many hands of the people around you in a minute or two' type of thing, so it's pretty fast and doesn't really lend itself to conversations or explanations.

So what's the best way to handle something like this without being labeled as insensitive or intolerant to people with disabilities? (And I guess the offshoot is...how do I coach my kids to handle something like this sensitively?)
Title: Re: Dealing with an 'Ewwww' graciously and sensitively
Post by: otterwoman on October 22, 2012, 09:56:48 AM
Could you have a sudden sneezing fit? Or bring back the fashion of white gloves.

I carry a little bottle of anti-bac gel in my purse. With flu season here, maybe you can suggest large bottle at the entry to the sanctuary.
Title: Re: Dealing with an 'Ewwww' graciously and sensitively
Post by: O'Dell on October 22, 2012, 10:03:01 AM
I would bypass the kid's hand and give his wrist forearm a pat or tiny squeeze while smiling warmly and acting as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Then proceed with the rest of the interaction as usual...either moving on to the next person or having chatting in another situation.

Title: Re: Dealing with an 'Ewwww' graciously and sensitively
Post by: Kaypeep on October 22, 2012, 10:25:30 AM
I'd carry a small prayer book or something in my right hand, and instead of shaking hands I'd sort of hold up the object to my chest and nod or slightly bow my head to them instead.  This way you are acknowledging them and wishing well, but not offering your hand. 

It's not just germ sharing that prevents some from shaking hands.  Some people have arthritis and don't wish to shake hands with others for fear of pain.
Title: Re: Dealing with an 'Ewwww' graciously and sensitively
Post by: Roe on October 22, 2012, 10:57:26 AM
Pull your hand back and give the two fingers (V) sign instead.

In our church, it's common to give that peace sign if you have a cold or just prefer not to shake hands.
Title: Re: Dealing with an 'Ewwww' graciously and sensitively
Post by: SingActDance on October 22, 2012, 11:02:13 AM
I would bypass the kid's hand and give his wrist forearm a pat or tiny squeeze while smiling warmly and acting as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Then proceed with the rest of the interaction as usual...either moving on to the next person or having chatting in another situation.

POD, grip the forearm and place other hand on the upper arm or shoulder. Still a warm gesture without getting germs on your hands.
Title: Re: Dealing with an 'Ewwww' graciously and sensitively
Post by: LiveLoveLearn on October 22, 2012, 12:00:59 PM
Going against the grain, I want to caution against touching him in another way.  Given that you know he's delayed in some way, I would smile at him and say some phrase pertinent to your religion and just refrain from touching at all.  Reason being, we had a child at my church growing up that was delayed.  I don't know what his condition was, and I suppose it doesn't matter.  Point being, he'd been taught the social nicety of shaking hands... however, all other touch would freak him out.  His parents made sure that we all knew that if we didn't want to shake his hand, it was fine, but not to just reach out and touch him, because he didn't handle it well. 

Kudos to his mom for being on her game.  It sounds like she's aware of his issues, so hopefully you won't have to worry.
Title: Re: Dealing with an 'Ewwww' graciously and sensitively
Post by: mbbored on October 22, 2012, 04:48:37 PM
In the churches I've been to, people often give a head nod/little bow or flash the peace sign when they want to avoid shaking hands. I've also been known to have hand sanitizer in my purse just in case.