TL;DR: I don't like to shake hands and I'm looking for suggestions about how to turn people down without seeming rude or stand-offish; or how to prevent a handshake gesture from being initiated at all.
Personal background: I live in the UK, am British, and have grown up in a "typical" White-Western culture. I'm 30-years-old. These facts may or may not be relevant to people's choice of answer.
No general problems with germs as a rule; some mild social anxiety on occasion unrelated to hand-shaking, but nothing of concern; some mild difficulties with social interaction that a few people (in a non-professional capacity) have likened to resembling a mild form of autism.
Details of Dilemma: I don't enjoy physical contact with most people, particularly strangers. At the top of the list of physical social interactions that I find unpleasant—to the extent that it makes me uncomfortable or sometimes upset—is hand-shaking (sadly, something that most often occurs when meeting someone for the first time). To be clear, I have no negative feelings about others shaking hands—seeing it take place doesn't offend me. I just do not wish to have to do it myself, although I'm not incapable of obliging someone and remaining outwardly unfazed, despite inwardly recoiling.
I think it's reasonable to say that there is a societal expectation/pressure to accept someone's handshake.
My three main modes of action, in the order of most-to-least commonly performed, are:
- Accept the handsake, and the negative feelings it generates inside me.
- Directly decline, stating that "I do not shake hands". This would be a great option were it always as successful as I would wish it to be. A few rare individuals seem to respond well, out of respect or admiration for having asserted my preference against an accepted norm. But, more often, it creates an awkward response in the other person, leaving them not knowing what to think or say to that. It likely creates a poor first impression for these people, who I tend to feel are then less likely to want to engage with me socially thereafter.
- Ignore the offer, pretending as though I did not see them extend their hand (perhaps timing it with a turn away to point out something as a distraction). This is basically a lie of omission, which is fine; somewhat cowardly perhaps; but something I'm quite unskilled at doing effectively and making it look natural.
- Is there anything I could or ought to be doing differently in order to minimise the risk of causing offence or dissuading others from wishing to engage with me further ?
- Are there any good strategies to prevent handshaking from being offered in the first place ?
- Does anyone else share my dislike of this social practice ?
Don't feel obliged to answer each and every itemised question. A general response is fine, too. I broke it down for clarity. Thank you in advance for any insight people have to offer.