So I’ve Been Thinking

So I've been thinking . . . handshake or hug?

. . . handshake or hug?

I was on a business trip a few years ago, and I watched in surprise as my then-boss greeted one of our colleagues with a big hug. As I stood there waiting to great him, I said, “just a handshake from me, I’m not a hugger.” We all laughed awkwardly, and then I shook his hand. At this point, we started the conversation about the handshake vs. the hug. What do you do? And what about when you are going for the handshake and the other person is going for the hug? Or vice versa?

In my personal life, I am a big-time hugger but I definitely have to get to know people first. In professional situations, I am all about the handshake. No hugs. The first time a colleague at work hugged me, I was taken aback. My father had passed away, and it was my first day back in the office after his death. Many of my colleagues offered their condolences. One of them, a male colleague, caught me in the hallway, came right up to me, and gave me a hug. Totally threw me off and I stood there stiffly. I didn’t expect it.

Another time, one of my colleagues from the New York office was in town and I went over to greet him. As I extended my hand to shake his, he had moved in for the hug. It was awkward and we ended up doing a half handshake-half hug thing.


In another work situation, a client we worked with, a woman, always hugged my male colleagues but didn’t hug the women. I always found that odd. So at probably our fourth meeting, my boss (a woman) went right up to our client, who had started to extend her hand to shake hands, and hugged her. The woman said, “Oh, are we at the hugging level now?” and laughed awkwardly.

So is it appropriate to hug or not? And at what point? When you first meet someone? Or is there a certain number of times you have to meet and then it’s ok? Like, after you’ve met three times? Five times? Ten times? And what about the whole male-female thing? Is it ok to hug a woman but not a man? Or do you hug a man but not a woman? And what if he’s gay? Is it appropriate then? But then what if she’s gay? Not appropriate? How would you even know? What if there is a room full of people? Do you have to hug them all? The questions are endless.

Aw, hell, it’s cold and flu season anyway so let’s just go with a fist bump and call it a day.


(Image found here. Handshug illustration found here.)

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