June 16th, 2009

The Dos and Don’ts of Hugging Etiquette

by Jacqueline Whitmore

By Jorie Scholnik, Guest Blogger

Is saying hello and giving a handshake outdated? Not yet, but apparently hugging seems to be the latest trend and is taking over as a standard greeting among the younger set. Hugging, typically viewed as a sign of affection, and has sparked much debate in schools across the country. In fact, hugging is so popular in some high schools that officials have banned this gesture of affection or imposed the three-second rule.

It’s amazing how something so innocuous can divide the world into categories: pro-huggers and anti-huggers. Before you quickly place yourself on either side, remember that hugging is a personal choice that varies from person to person. Therefore, especially when in the business world, consider the following dos and don’ts of hugging before you go in for a big one.

Always respect another person’s space. An individual’s family background, culture, age and gender play a major role in the acceptance or displeasure of a hug. Usually, like a kiss, you can tell from a person’s body language if they would be willing to receive a hug or not.

Follow the three-second rule. Keep the hug short and avoid placing your arm too low around the other person. Longer hugs have a certain connotation and could have negative repercussions if a co-worker’s spouse or significant other is present.

Pass the sniff test. By sniff, I mean sniffles and smell. If you are sniffling because you are sick, the other person will appreciate not catching your cold. Additionally, if you just finished working out or are perspiring, it may not be the best time for a bear hug. No one enjoys a hug from someone who reeks of alcohol.

Ask permission when you need or want to share a hug. If you ask permission, the receiver will feel respected and have an opportunity to voice their comfort level. It is especially important to ask before you give a giant bear hug to your boss, client or new employee. In these situations, you may want to opt for the age-old handshake. In fact, if you have to ask, you probably shouldn’t do it.

Avoid awkward moments. If you are with a group of people and you know some people better than others, give your new acquaintances a handshake first and then follow with hugs for those you know well. Therefore, you won’t have to guess if your new acquaintances are pro-huggers or anti-huggers. Always be considerate of other’s boundaries.

Consider frequency and occasion. There may be more appropriate occasions for a hug such as when you haven’t seen a co-worker for an extended period of time or if you’re at a holiday party. A hug is not necessary if you see a co-worker on a regular basis.

Jorie Scholnik is currently pursuing her masters and specialist degrees in Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Counseling at the University of Florida. She has been interning seasonally at the Protocol School of Palm Beach since June 2006.

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