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Are We Shaking Hands Without Hesitancy in Self-Storage Business Settings?

Are We Shaking Hands Without Hesitancy in Self-Storage Business Settings?
As much as some people are quick to embrace old social norms the further we get away from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, others aren’t so willing to throw caution to the wind. Here are some thoughts addressing the awkwardness of whether a handshake is appropriate or prudent yet in a self-storage setting.

The COVID-related headlines the last few days haven’t been rosy. The latest subvariant, Omicron BA.5, is gathering steam and causing health officials concern because not only is it highly transmissible, it’s good at evading antibodies and causing reinfections. So, I thought it was interesting that an Axios article landed in my feed today declaring that the handshake was back.

Despite my own COVID fatigue and readiness to get out of the social-norm purgatory we’ve been in for the last several months, I’m not sure I’m ready to slap skin and clasp hands with just anybody. I’ve found myself hesitant in social situations with people I don’t know largely because I have no idea what they’re thinking. What was once a common greeting across cultures and an afterthought in social and business situations has become an awkward exchange.

Lately, when you’re formally introduced to someone new and your eyes meet, you can almost hear each other’s wheels grinding as you navigate the situation in a matter of milliseconds. Do you or don’t you? Will one of you extend your hand, and if so, what’s the immediate reaction by the other party?

At the most recent Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas in April, I didn’t hesitate to shake someone’s hand if they extended first, but I can’t recall if I was ever the aggressor. Even now, I’m quick to try to assess someone’s posture and body language to gauge their openness. In a social setting I believe this is the polite thing to do. In a business setting, it’s a little more complicated.

As humans, there’s a lot that occurs during a handshake. Instinctive assessments are made about the other person based on grip, posture, eye contact, etc. In today’s environment, is it relevant to formulate opinions based on someone’s hesitancy or outright refusal to extend their hand?

I’d be curious to know how self-storage managers are handling this. As part of the sales process, managers are typically taught to stand up and greet new customers when they walk in, but that doesn’t usually involve a handshake. Once a lease is signed, though, the dynamic can change. It’s far more likely that hands will clasp as a welcome-aboard gesture.

Interactions with long-time tenants may also traditionally be subject to handshakes upon greeting and departure. The same is true when engaging contract workers, service providers and law-enforcement officers you know well.

As a matter of customer service, I think it’s still prudent to be cautious and respect other people’s boundaries. Even if you’re a willing party, it can be smart to try to assess someone’s comfort level. For example, if they walk into your office wearing a face mask, there’s a good chance they may be hesitant to shake your hand. If you extend your hand and someone doesn’t immediately reach out, it’s polite to simply retract, and offer a warm smile and head nod.

How your management office is set up can also set the stage, particularly if you’re a manager who’d prefer not to shake hands. If you’re still wearing face coverings, using plexiglass dividers and have hand-sanitizer dispensers readily available and visible, you’re less likely to have someone reach out first.

The pandemic is going to have many lingering effects, including some curtailing of social mores. It’s prudent to use your people skills to read the room as well as the general vibe and approach across your community. While most of us no longer feel compelled to dress in an airtight bubble, others are not so quick to let their guard down. It makes sense to maintain some sensible decorum, use humor to defuse an awkward situation when appropriate, and try not to get offended if either party reaches for some sanitizer immediately after a willing handshake exchange.

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