A Hug, a Kiss, or a Handshake? Manners for Greetings!
By: Maralee McKee
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This suggestion is from Jennine Harvey, who’s studying for her doctorate degree in Tennessee and wants to know the etiquette of various greetings (hug, cheek kiss, handshake, etc.) and which one is the best to use in various situations. Great questions, Jennine! Or should I say, “Dr. Harvey”!
How do you know whether you’re correct to offer your hand?
How can you preempt a known “hugger?”
Do you have to join in on the social cheek-kissing?
The answers are here.
We probably don’t shake hands as often as we should. That’s unfortunate, because a handshake is the socially chosen form of personal contact between persons who aren’t intimate with one another, so every missed handshake is a missed opportunity to connect with that person.
Consider your handshake your personal olive branch. Be eager to extend your hand to welcome strangers, friends, acquaintances, and business associates.
When to shake hands:
When meeting someone for the first time
When greeting a friend or acquaintance you haven’t seen in a week or so
When saying goodbye to someone with whom you shook hands when you said hello
When you’re called on to introduce people prior to them speaking (shake hands with the person(s) as they step to the microphone)
When at a banquet, prior to sitting (introduce yourself to and shake hands with everyone at your table)
When someone at your table is honored with an award or recognition (make sure to shake hands as soon as you can politely do so after the honoree returns to the table)
Savvy Handshaking Notes: When shaking hands, it’s best to not pull others towards you during the handshake by touching their elbow or shoulder, or to cover their hand during the handshake with your other hand. Both of these actions are considered forms of wanting to one-up the other person, especially if you’re just meeting or the friendship is new.
Especially for Men: In most cases, you no longer need to wait for a woman to extend her hand to you first. In a purely social setting, you can choose to wait, but it’s not necessary.
One exception is when interacting with Europeans, where a man, even in a business situation, does not extend his hand first.
Other exceptions are when meeting and greeting much older women who might not understand the evolution in etiquette, and with Muslim women (who often consider it improper for a man to touch a woman at all).
The Cheek Kiss
The social cheek kiss, so popular in much of the world, is trying desperately to catch on in the US. It hasn’t reached our suburbs, small businesses, or corporate boardrooms yet, so it’s best for you and me, at least for now, to leave it to the socialites and movie moguls!
The Social Hug
Some people are huggers; I’m one of them. So I make it a point to restrain myself.
We just can’t read the minds of persons we’re meeting or greeting. They might seem really open to us, and yet might be put off by a hug. It’s best not to place others in the awkward position of wanting to back away from us.
Men should never initiate a hug with a woman. It will keep any lawsuits, gossip, or extra sensitive husbands/boyfriends at bay. Ladies: we’re wise to keep the same thoughts in mind (lawsuits, gossip and wives!); however, we can initiate a hug in public in social situations.
It’s impolite to hug a bride during the wedding or reception. (It’s too easy to get makeup or smudges on her pristine white gown!)
Asking people “May I hug you?” might seem like a nice gesture on the surface, but if the answer is no, you’ve put them in the uncomfortable position of having to tell you they’d rather you didn’t.
To preempt a known hugger, approach them with a big smile and your arm and hand extended for a handshake. If needed, you can even say in your most enthusiastic voice, “It’s great to see you, Liz! Let me shake your hand!” as the person approaches you. These methods aren’t guarantees against a hug, but they often help!
There’s more about greetings and handshaking in this post: The 5-Step Formula for a Perfect First Impression!
Thank you for your question, Dr. Harvey! Now add your question to my “to answer” file by sending it my way at: [email protected] I look forward to reading and answering as many as I possibly can!
Thank you so much for reading today’s post. I greatly appreciate your time and the fact that you allow me to be your etiquette mentor! You rock!!!
Until next time, remember to bless yourself and others by being you…at your best!
XOXO (or a handshake if that’s better for you!) 😉