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Shake? Hug? Kiss?


T’is the season!  But it’s not just at Christmas Parties where we have to decide whether to shake, hug or kiss.  With “business casual” impacting much more than dress code, we’re called upon to size up the person approaching us in work as well as social situations.  It’s not a simple call, given much more diverse cultural practices, and we have to decide nimbly.  What do you feel comfortable doing?  What do you think the other person will be most comfortable doing?  Here are 3 options:

Shake Hands:  This is the safest default position…with a couple of caveats.  It’s often considered improper for a man to shake a Muslim woman’s hand so follow her cue.  More people (e.g. Howie Mandel, people undergoing chemo) are sensitive to the “germ” aspect of shaking hands and may initiate a “bump”; again, follow their cue.  Touching an elbow or shoulder or covering the other person’s hand during the handshake with both your hands could be perceived as one-upsmanship.  It goes without saying that a medium firm (not bone crushing),  medium brief (just  2-3 pumps) handshake is always “right”.

Hug:  This may be too much touching for some people whether you lean in for a semi-hug, full hug, a side hug or a hug with a little pat (or big slap!) on the back!  Men should generally let the woman initiate a hug.  Saying “I’m going to hug you” or asking “may I hug you?” puts the hug-ee in a difficult position if she really wants to say ”no”.  Unless you know the person reasonably well, opt for a shake.

Kiss:  To kiss or not to kiss, that is the question.  Then, what kind:  air, cheek or mouth kiss?  Finally, how many:  one?  two?  three?   This may be way too close for comfort for many people so you want to know the person very well indeed!

Good manners never go out of style and that includes keeping the other person’s comfort level in mind as well as your own.  Happy Holidays!