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No handshakes — now what?

Community Conversation: Tampa Bay motivational speaker offers alternatives.

Don’t criticize. Give honest, sincere appreciation. Smile. Use the other person’s name in conversation. Be a good listener. These tips are among the nine principles that early 20th-century motivational guru Dale Carnegie listed in his enduring best-seller, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.’’

Start out with a proper handshake, he also advised.

In light of social distancing brought on by the coronavirus, Rick Gallegos, 55, president and CEO of Dale Carnegie of Tampa Bay, talked with the Tampa Bay Times about what appears to be the demise of the handshake.

Is handshaking a thing of the past?

It’s been a practice for a long period of time to start a connection with a handshake, but as of right now, that’s out the window … The way the brain works, the reptilian brain that controls automatic function, it’s always watching out for us, avoiding danger. And people right now do not want to enter into a handshake, because to them it’s kind of dangerous.

Before, it was always look them in the eye, match the pressure of the handshake, and that was kind of the fundamentals of connecting with someone, right? But today we have a completely different angle on that that we set up.

In response to the coronavirus?

Absolutely ... We’ve been running free workshops for the community on a program we call, “Becoming a Digital Leader’’... We (discuss) the first nine principles of Dale Carnegie … We ask people, which one of these can you use to replace the handshake to build the connection?

They’re (starting) with appreciation, or to smile when you see them. Or to use their name in the conversation right away, as opposed to shaking hands. Or just being a good listener, or talk in terms of their interest. My analogy is that the handshake is like putting the key in the ignition, but you’ve got to do a lot more things to be a successful driver.

It really goes back to what Dale Carnegie has taught for over 100 years, applying these simple, first nine principles is how we made people successful for all these years.

Do you recommend substitute gestures, such as bumping elbows?


People don’t want to get close to people right now. There’s a natural fear of, are you going to invade my circle right now? So (we’re) recommending to people that they not do anything physical right now

They need a new go-to, and I think the smile is the number one thing they could be using, intentional smiling to say, “I know I’m not going to shake your hand, but I’m going to smile.’’

Even if you’re wearing a mask?

You can see the smile from your eyes up. Your eyes light up when you smile, versus when you frown, and they can see that even through the mask.

A lot of young professionals these days grew up with texting. Are they seeking your help in face-to-face communication?

That is a huge huge issue right now.

They really prefer not to engage face-to-face. I call it email, voicemail and facemail — they don’t like facemail very much. It’s because it requires a lot more skill to be effective in front of a person than it does to send a text or post something.

You also conduct seminars for sales people. What are you finding?

Statistics say about 76 percent of calls today are virtual. They’re either phone calls or online. And sales people are not effective online.

Most people have built their sales careers off charisma and personality, and those don’t work the same online, because people, their engagement level is about a minute. So the person who would talk five to 10 minutes in front of a client, that won’t work online.

In other words, if I did a sales call on you, I could walk into your office, find something on your wall and say, “Wow, tell me about that airplane.’’ On a Zoom meeting you can’t see any of that. So you have to have a more prepared approach to connect as a sales professional.

When talking to leaders about online work training, what are you hearing?

They’re all at home, right?

They don’t know what the engagement level of their team is, because they can’t see them. They are working way too much right now. Because they’re at home, they tend to work more. They’re not sure the team has enough to do while they’re at home

There’s a lot of stress going on right now.

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