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Hug vs. Handshake (medium.com/women-and-work)
102 points by gluejar on May 15, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 157 comments

My favourite definition of "awkwardness" comes from Steven Pinker: it's the uncomfortable feeling you get when you realize that your concept of your relationship with someone else doesn't match their concept. The intensity of awkwardness roughly corresponds to the magnitude of difference in relationship concepts.

For example, I was at a dinner party recently and greeted a female friend with a handshake. She said, "That was formal," and slight awkwardness ensued. When we were leaving I made sure to give her a hug.

If, at the end of dinner, someone had pulled out their wallet and starting putting money on the table to pay for their meal, the awkwardness would have been much more intense.

There's also culture. Among my friends, I have to keep straight whether they expect 0, 1, 2, or 3 kisses on the cheek.

You can always ask in advance, making it nonchalant :) "1 kiss, right?", that at least will be a nice ice-breaker that will minimize awkwardness

Really? That's your minimal solution for awkwardness? Ice-breakers should be fun or interesting conversation starters, they shouldn't be you calling attention to how awkward you are. Just learn follow the other person's cues. If you must do it, the excessive-honesty-in-order-to-elicit-sympathy tactic can be saved as a back up plan for when you make mistakes.

There's always my favorite: finding out if it's appropriate to hug someone you want to hug without it being awkward.

My strategy: Approaching from a bit of a distance with arms down look happy and kind of throw your arms out - half "this could turn into a hug" half "I'm just excited to see you." If they reach out a hand, shake it. If they reciprocate, go in for the hug. If they don't, stay safe with the handshake. The point is to give them time and opportunity to react with body language rather than speech, but not so much time that everyone's stuck thinking about it and upping the awkward factor. If it does get awkward just change the subject and move on. You'll both forget about it in a few minutes.

Either way, I'm with everyone else here in that I believe informal greetings are for informal relationships.

Hilariously well thought out, I'm going to try this.

100% Agree. This is 100% useful for awkward people like me though. I'm sure I'm not alone.

I used to be quite awkward and reserved. Then I realized that I spend most of my life solving problems. This is just another problem. I can solve this.

The biggest thing - confidence. Just like your 80-year-old grandparent that's scared to touch a computer because they might break it, I was scared in social interactions because people might not like me. There's a lot of people out there and most are a lot more awkward and tolerant of awkwardness than you think. Just don't spill water on the keyboard or download a virus and you probably won't break it. Once you internalize that, you'll get the confidence to fiddle and experiment.

The other biggest thing - discomfort. Focus on avoiding the other person's fears/discomfort and work hard to squash your own.

Also, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I'm more concerned about the strength of handshakes. I have a bias against anyone who actively squeezes my hand with anything beyond a simple, firm grasp. It comes across as macho, like you've got something to prove, and therefore untrustworthy.

I'd like to point out here that I'm admitting a bias rather than expressing an opinion.

EDIT: at least now I'm approaching something resembling adulthood I don't have the problem of trying to negotiate on the fly which of the various intricate hiphop style handshakes we're executing. Those were the days...

Weird, I have the complete opposite: I have a slight feeling of distrust when somebody gives me a weak hand.

I've always wondered what happens when two people meet who literally don't flex any muscle in their hand while shaking... must be some kind of strange hand mashing.

I grip with what I hope is a sincere level of firmness - as in, "I'm really pleased to be shaking your hand, thank you" - and I'm flummoxed when it feels as though the other person has simply dangled their appendage for me to interact with.

> and I'm flummoxed when it feels as though the other person has simply dangled their appendage for me to interact with.

This was a wonderful turn of phrase. It should be in some sales manual or something.

That or a list of unintentional double entendres.

Ditto. And I squeeze the hell out of their hand to relate reliability and engagement. If I shake someone's hand and they give me a weak handshake, I see it as, above all, not being engaged. I feel like it leaves emotional distance.

I know this guy who won't even attempt to participate in the procedure. He just gives you his hand. It's like he just inserts his flat hand into yours and removes it once you let go. No shake either.

I know someone with Asperger's who cannot shake hands - he keeps his hand stiff but flat, and kind of slaps it against yours while your arms move up and down.

It's odd.

I also know other people with very limp handshakes. I don't mistrust them, but I do think it's weird.

But what I hate are the ALPHA handshakes. Not just firm, but too much squeezing, and trying to turn so their hand is on top. It's calculating and manipulative and just weird. I never know whether to just let them do it; or to let them do it and then turn it when they're lulled into a false sense of security; or whether my entire handshake with them should be a battle of twisting and turning.

Same here, mushy handshakes make me feel uneasy.

I never, ever initiate hugs at work either. If someone else wants to, I'll go in, but I just don't.

at least now I'm approaching something resembling adulthood I don't have the problem of trying to negotiate on the fly which of the various intricate hiphop style handshakes we're executing.

Don't be so sure. I'm in my 40s and run into this from time to time with informal settings, with full-grown adult males.

I try to adjust the strength of my handshake, depending on a few factors, but mostly related to how hard the other persons will shake my hand.

I'm not trying to match the strength of their shake, just adjust my own. The objective is to make the other person feel more comfortable.

I start with a strength based on some stereotypes (for example, slim women generally have weaker handshakes than big men), but adjust the strength during the shake if I feel my initial strength wasn't right.

Whether this makes the other person actually feel more comfortable is difficult to know, but it makes me feel happy that I've tried.

However, it does mean that I feel a bit sorry for people who have a crushing handshake - what do they think they are doing?

I actually don't know how hard I'm shaking hands. I never go in strong, and I've never felt like a big guy, but I always find it really difficult to tell if I'm applying more strength than I think I am.

Any time someone tries to crush my hand I instantly feel apprehensive of them, as you describe. But perhaps some of them don't actually realise how hard they're squeezing.

I know exactly what you mean.

I bet you also feel awkward when you do try to apply enough strength, but the other person has a stronger than average handshake, which makes you wonder if your two hands would implode if you apply the same or more strength as the other person does.

Hah, that's exactly it. Whenever anyone applies more pressure than needed I normally just try to tense my hand, i.e. immovable object meeting the unstoppable force. I think that might prompt them to squeeze harder, though.

I think I'm basically with you on this, though when I receive a particularly brutal handshake a certain scene from Hot Shots[1] involuntarily leaps to mind and I tend to chuckle rather than read too much into the psyche of the shaker.

What is your opinion on the opposite? For me that's far more unsettling. I've initiated handshakes with people whose age and home country meant they didn't really have much experience of the Western "firm handshake", always the limp wrist. I don't know whether to shake it, or draw the hand to my lips as courting a princess. Which, I assume, was not one in your repertoire of "intricate hiphop style handshakes".

Jokes aside, more than one family member had felt it important to instruct me in the art of a good handshake as a matter of gentlemanly conduct from a young age, even long after I'd obviously "got it", and I distinctly recall one of my friends suddenly in his mid-20s going from a pathetic one to a really decent powergrip apparently because his boss had told him after a promotion that he ought to work on his handshake. I say this in defense of the one who "actively squeezes", as it may not be macho-signaling so much as over-correction for their past dead fish.

[1] http://youtu.be/HQmBJONo5_E?t=16m47s

>What is your opinion on the opposite?

I've only ever experienced this with peers who I know well, and I actually find there's a pleasant intimacy to it. It would definitely be weird if it happened in a formal context though.

By "opposite"[1] I mean the muscle-relaxed version. How does such a thing even work as a hand "shake"?

Btw I loved your original comment in both style and content, hence my riffing. One of those if-I-could-upvote-twice circumstances.

[1] When someone says "opposite" draw a reasonable hyperplane and reflect.

Be careful with this. As another commenter pointed out, there are some of us who mistrust any handshake that's not firm.

I generally try to match my handshake to the person I'm shaking, but I feel a shiver of disgust when given a limp hand.

I feel the most trust towards someone with a firm, strong grip.

The only handshake I dislike is the one that literally crushes your hand. But those are pretty rare, and distinct from a firm grip.

I don't actually know which handshake style tends to be most popular.

I wouldn't consider strength of the grasp of any importance.

In some places a good grasp is more of an indication of attentive communication (as in "I'm listening/ready") than "macho-ism" of any form.

I've rarely seen strong grasps as an indicator of "macho" except in early adulthood/teens, where it's mostly a form of play.

On the contrary, a very flimsy grasp gives you exactly the opposite: the handshake becomes an afterthought.

One trick I've learned to avoid getting your hand crushed: instead of keeping your index finger connected to your middle finger, extend it along the other person's wrist. It gives your hand a stronger shape, and it's harder for the other person to grab your fingers.

Well, it's called a "handshake" for a reason. As opposed to "handmassage" or "handtouch." The terminology itself sets the expectation that you need to hold the other person's hand firmly, and shake it.

If any business is involved, then stick with handshakes.

I've been in a situation where my girlfriend's friends do neither: they do the air cheek kiss thing. Its really confusing because I'm never sure if they are coming in for a hug or an air cheek kiss. Its hard to try to 'take charge' and initiate something otherwise because I start to feel like I'm about to be rude by doing something different and get more awkward.

Its nice to know I'm not the only one with this kind of issue.

I pretty much only ever shake hands when first being introduced to someone, or when concluding some kind of business arrangement.

I have no problem with hugging but I really don't care - I never instigate it with males or females but have no problem returning a hug if one is incoming.

Who has the time to worry about stuff like this? I really don't get it, chances are the people you are imagining taking offense aren't analyzing the interaction at all - let alone as deeply as you are.

I'd strongly advise bosses not to hug their employees except in very rare circumstances, those interactions are much likely to be analyzed by the recipient and any observing coworkers

I'm a married male for the record.

It's not a genuine worry for me, just something I think about from time to time, when I realize that an interaction (either a hand shake or a hug) was slightly awkward for one of the parties.

Other people don't need to give something the same amount of attention that I do for it to become a meaningful subject of thought for me. I also don't think that people generally take offense when (say) I give them a handshake instead of a hug, or the other way around. At worst, it creates some momentary awkwardness. All that said, it's still interesting.

Some people are insecure when they're not 100% sure of the rules for social interaction. They don't want to come off as an asshole who pays no mind to social niceties or as someone who has Aspbergers and doesn't recognize social cues.

When I run into a male acquaintance, I know exactly how to greet him: shake his hand. Doesn’t matter how long we’ve known each other. I even shake my dad’s hand.

Maybe I'm too friendly or completely oblivious to how socially awkward and creepy I am, but I hug many of my close male friends, even though I am a 'cisgendered heterosexual male.' In a way I am saddened that the author is not on 'hugging terms' with is own father.

Perhaps he is overthinking the trivial niceties of social interactions? In my mind, it's never been a Big Deal. Do what comes naturally, Anything is only as awkward you make it.

After a few misguided attempts at executing the 'urban greeting,' I have since made a conscious effort to demonstrate clear intent upon encountering an acquaintance. In other words, I make sure my hand is clearly oriented in either handshake or urban greeting ready position.

Simply put, it's like partner dancing - one must lead for the other to follow, or else you'll end up with the 'ball-and-socket' when one goes for the fist bump and the other for the handshake/high five.

Yeah, I hug loads of my male friends too, and, like you, it's all about following their cues (and providing your own). Interestingly, my Dad isn't comfortable with hugging men at all, so I don't force him into it. What I find works really well with him is the handshake + shoulder pat + hold. It's basically half a hug, but he's okay with it. Maybe the author of the blog post should try that.

This is my experience too.

I might add to this, the traditional handshake or the bro handshake. You know, this one: http://d3j5vwomefv46c.cloudfront.net/photos/large/621236127....

I'll never forget the time I accidentally gave my dentist a bro shake. You should have seen how excited he got. Poor lonely dentists...

Yes, personally, I have a much more difficult time figuring out which bro handshake is about to go down in an informal setting...which has resulted in some terrible awkwardness. It is much easier to read a female coworker's body language in the workplace to tell if she likes hugs or not.

Would you hug Hilary Clinton if you’ve met her on two or three different occasions? Of course not. And it’s the same for the female CEO of a major bank. So then, why would you hug a female work associate that you’ve only met twice?

Answer: you don’t hug Mrs. Clinton or the female CEO because you respect them too much.

Now, notice that this is how men treat ALL males.


Your feelings probably come from the idea that "Men don’t do this with other men". They do, just not in your social group or culture. It's not disrespectful; if you don't really know each other it's awkward at worst.

Simple test: would you go get coffee with this person, with no business interests? Yes) Hug for men, hug+cheek-kiss for women, No) Hand-shake.

Disclaimer: I'm from Brazil.

I think this is a big part of it. As a woman I prefer handshakes in most business situations, but I would be totally fine with a hug or hug+cheek-kiss in a more casual business environment if they were also hugging/cheek-kissing my male colleagues. If they hug/cheek-kiss everybody, they're just a huggy, kissy person and that's fine. If someone hugged/kissed me but shook hands with my male colleagues, to me that says they think their relationship with me is somehow different from their relationship with my male counterparts, and that would make me very nervous.

Your "would you get coffee with no business interests" test is a neat way to think about it. Thanks! I know I definitely would hug my best friends, but would not hug my coworkers.

In a sense, it's like the German distinction between friends and acquaintances: friends are a rare treasure, whereas in America we seem to consider just about everyone friends.

What? I would absolutely go in for the hug on Hillary, especially if we've met and had meaningful exchanges. I think it's weird that you think hug -> low respect.

I actually have hugged Hillary Clinton (seriously!), even though I'm quite certain she had no idea who I was.

It's awesome, everyone should do it.

Eww. I'll pass, thanks.

I think much of the reason why it's "normal" for men to greet women with hugs and men with handshakes isn't about disrespecting women. I expect it's really about not seeming gay. In my personal experience, much of male society is suspicious of physical intimacy between men, and treats it with homophobia. That, I expect, puts a social pressure on men not to hug each other, and that is how our norms have evolved. As other people point out, in a lot of other cultures men do hug other men (for example, I hug other men).

Certainly, you can't accuse Shane Snow of trying to push an agenda that supports the notion of men being cool and composed. He is super awkward and he knows it.

Also, the notion that hugging too much cheapens hugging is a bit silly. It's very easy to express genuine warmth and emotion in an embrace. It doesn't matter how many other people you've hugged, or how indifferent you were at the time. Your friends aren't going to see you hug other people and think "oh, man, he'll hug anyone, maybe that means I'm not special".

It's not a matter of respect; it's a matter of familiarity.

In our friend circle, even with newer friends, we all hug… men, women, everybody hugs each other. It's nice.

When in doubt, I say "Hey… do we hug?" with a smile before saying hello or goodbye. It works.

When I came to Vienna, the big city, being a slightly awkward nerd, it took serious adjustment to the fact that all male/female and female/female greetings of people that know each other fairly well involved cheek kissing (twice, starting with the right cheeks).

But I got used to it, and even learned different forms (twice, starting left - dunno where high chance for funny misunderstandings, thrice, starting right - Serbia iirc).

I greet everybody with a Handshake when I meet them the first time but can say the most universal rule is just to be relaxed about it.

People that are so uptight to have a bias against someone where the first greeting results into some awkwardness through cultural differences (where cultural differences cann also easily occur even within the same city), is not someone I want to be acquainted most of the time.

Contrary I even find a little misunderstanding about greeting protocol on a first meeting being a good ice breaker.

For business purposes I would of course always plead for erring on the conservative side ;) handshakes work well most of the time.

In the Netherlands we also use the three cheek kisses, foreigners get used to it quick enough if you ask me :-)

I have been told off more than once for not hugging women. That said, the kiss-on-the cheek thing is very popular in continental Europe for acquaintances.

The only strangers I make a point of hugging are Germans, just to freak them out!

But seriously, as long as you greet sincerely with any action, you are highly unlikely to cause offense. Just note their reaction for future reference after.

More importantly is how much personal space you give them after that point. A one-off strange greeting is almost always acceptable; occupying someone's personal space for an extended time is another matter entirely...

Several years back I was in a meeting with a very extroverted Italian man, well known to the group and a VP of something or other. He was handing out awards of some sort, and doing the extroverted Italian huggy thing. It was endearing, and most of the women were game, except one towards the end who was nervous about it. The VP read her body language and adjusted to handshake and a happy apology with contrite head bobbing and hand waving.

I was next, and on a whim called out "I'll hug you, Joe," and did so with gusto, to much laughter from the room. It was shocking, as I'm the guy who does nothing with anyone. No handshake, no hug, just radiating a pleasant uncomfortableness.

There are only two people I habitually hug, though, my wife and my father-in-law; the latter being much less awkward than my use of a semicolon. He's the Kramer to my Soup Nazi, and we get along famously for no apparent reason (aside from a common interest in his daughter's welfare, that is).

This reminds me of the awkwardness of seeing someone you sort-of know in passing and deciding whether to stop and chat with them or just say "Hey! How ya doing?" and continue walking.

The "stop and chat" dilemma immortalized by Larry David: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f2LJXz-l2k

"Hi" and a smile/nod appears perfectly appropriate. But it certainly depends on the cultural background.

Isn't the social norm[1] to wait for a woman to initiate the handshake?

The norm doesn't specify the timeout but to me it comes naturally to just nod and say hello after the "moment"[2] I am convinced the timeout happened.

[1] It certainly is in Poland and I am fairly convinced about Western Europe too

[2] About one and a half igniseconds [3]

[3] www.unwords.com/unword/ignisecond.html‎

I don't know if it's precisely the social norm in the US, but I've found that it works extremely well.

Same here - as a male interacting with a female, waiting for the other party to initiate any physical contact is the best bet. If they want to hug you, they'll do it.

The social norm for Berlin would be for the higher-up to initiate the handshake, regardless of gender. This is especially true on first introduction, otherwise, the arriving person usually offers their hand first.

Fascinating, I tend to offer first to avoid the awkward lull of waiting to see who would otherwise, I rarely ponder how that would be taken.

I hug all my friends, male and female. If they seem uncomfortable, I just make a mental note to shake their hand instead in the future.

What I find even more inappropriate is random women I talked to once suddenly thinking it is necessary to hug me. Really, no. We can shake hands if you insist, but a hug is an absolutely no-go unless you are closer than close family.

Some people are just huggers. As a fan of hugs I approve of people who get down to hugging quickly, though I understand why non-huggers would be squicked out by that.

If that wigs you out, I have a particular friend group for whom kissing becomes a thing almost immediately after they've met you. The first time it happens it can be absurdly disorienting.

I love how you're framing people as "huggers" or "non-huggers". Similar to the good old "technical" and "non-technical".

Bad comparison because hugger vs non-hugger is a preference, not a range of understanding.

In business situations, stick with the handshake. A hug is just inappropriate. Save those for friends and family.

As for the handshake, go with Ron Swanson's advise: Firm, Dry, 3 seconds.

To make it even more complicated, people from different counties react differently to hugging. Taiwanese, for example, often seem be quite uncomfortable with it.

In Argentina, everyone kisses once on the cheek, including between men. Certainly a culture shock at first, put it avoids all the ambiguity in NA/Europe.

Edit: I should say I only know that to be true in the BsA area. Not sure about other provinces.

I'm in Scotland (and from a particularly dour bit of Scotland) and I can remember an Italian chap who was working with us for a while exclaiming "Why, I bet you have never kissed your father".

The palpable sense of horror that this created remains with me to this day.

In most of Europe, kissing each other on the cheek in informal settings is also perfectly normal, but usually not between men. Where I'm from (Netherlands) three kisses on opposing cheeks is more or less the standard greeting if at least one girl/woman is involved, but only after you get to know each other a little better. In other European countries, 3 kisses is weird but 1 is normal. I've never been anywhere in Europe where hugging is considered a normal way of greeting, except among close friends and relatives, and usually only in special situations (haven't seen each other in a very long time, or meeting under difficult circumstances). When I visit the US, the first time someone tries to hug me still keeps surprising me...

So yeah, greeting seems to be a pretty diverse and complicated cultural phenomenon ;-)

French kisses - when you greet a friend, how many times do you kiss? http://24.media.tumblr.com/ea0ed4cd8ed84bd2d52b2b4d6e96caf7/...

Survey where strict boundaries matching the provinces of France are found. The number of kisses varies from one to five (!).

  Male friends or business contacts = handshake.
  Female on first contact or in any business context = handshake.
  Female acquaintance I don't know particularly well = smile and Hi before there's any ambiguity.
  Female friend or reasonable acquaintance (e.g., wife's friend) = kiss on the cheek (each side with female relatives).
Are the hugs being discussed in this thread actual hugs? Or going in close as though to kiss on the cheek, but not actually touching cheeks? Or more like the way male athletes embrace each other?

If you act awkwardly or second-guess, it'll be awkward. If you end up in one of those weird situations where you half handshake and half kiss or confuse kissing sides and somehow brush lips, just laugh it off. "Well, I screwed that up!"

(I'm in Australia.)

Granted, I am the kind of girl who reads Hacker News, but, for what it's worth, it's often awkward for us, too. For men or women! Hug or handshake? Or wacky Euro kiss thing? I find myself hugging after first meet, unless we're at work or in a professional context, in which case I default to handshake. The awkwardness occurs at, for example, work parties, where the party leads me to default to hug, but then I second guess at the last moment, realizing I normally only interact with so-and-so professionally. In the end, I usually settle on, oh-well-he/she-will-adapt and hug. Act with confidence, and any potential awkwardness washes away...

> Act with confidence, and any potential awkwardness washes away...

Please, no. Not everyone wants to hug you, not everyone wants to kiss you, not everyone wants to have sex with you. Default to no physical contact unless it is very clear that both parties are happy with that contact. Acting with confidence is simply pressuring the other party into agreeing.

> Please, no. Not everyone wants to hug you, not everyone wants to kiss you, not everyone wants to have sex with you. Default to no physical contact unless it is very clear that both parties are happy with that contact. Acting with confidence is simply pressuring the other party into agreeing.

You're okay with handshakes? That's physical contact.

It's not about what you or some other introvert wants to do. It's a question of social norms. You either conform, or you'll be considered to be antisocial.

You should really try to understand the difference between a hug/cheek-kiss and sex. Where in this thread has anyone suggested that sex between strangers meeting for the first time, business associates, coworkers or even friends is a social norm?

Firstly, the social norms in my circles are not to hug/kiss.

Secondly, isn’t one of the main points of the feminist movement to abolish ‘rape culture’ where it is the social norm to pressure people into intercourse against their will? So even if hugging/kissing was a social norm, that hardly says anything about its acceptability.

Thirdly, I don’t see much of a qualitative (rather than quantitative, in some sense) difference between hugging/kissing and sex – both are forms of intimate physical contact with a strong emotional component, as opposed to handshakes, which usually lack these emotions and require much less contact.

Fourthly, I don’t really mind being perceived as anti-social by those stubborn enough to force their superfluous, unhelpful and intruding habits onto others. Interesting people usually don’t do that.

>"Not everyone wants to hug you, not everyone wants to kiss you, not everyone wants to have sex with you."

Seems like a bit much extrapolation from a limited data set there.

I hug any gender if they make the first attempt, because I'm totally fine with it but won't initiate more than a handshake unless it's really obvious that a hug is in order. It also depends on context.

Do not hug someone without asking first. Also, don't do the open-arms-moving-in-and-then-asking-for-a-hug. People who might feel uncomfortable hugging you now feel socially forced to. Ask the first time, and ask if you can hug them again in the future.

If you're really feeling awkward, start out with a hand wave as you approach the person... either they'll wave back, or try to initiate a handshake/hug with you. Either way it's a good enough greeting for friends and co-workers alike.

This is cultural, of course. In Latin America the cheek kiss is expected, and if you don't give it it's considered rude.

In the UK (or at least among people I know, both personally and in work circles), asking if you can hug someone would be just about the most awkward thing you can do.

I don't really have any advice on a better answer, for me it just... feels natural. For both work and personal, both men and women, there are some who I'd hug, some a kiss on the cheek (women only for this one - except a few people in France/Belgium I work with), others whose hand I'd shake every time I see them and others who I'd just greet verbally. Same with female. Never stopped to think about it, or discussed it, just happens.

It may feel awkward at first, but asking is a form of showing respect. The worst that can happen is they say no.

Maybe the best reason to do this is to practice consent culture in our everyday lives. As it relates to HN readership, consent culture would go a long way in improving the work [and convention] environment for women in technology. I wish more awkward nerds would read up on this.

http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2012/01/consent-culture.html (this blog might be NSFW)

I think our circles may have different social norms. Being asked wouldn't feel like respect, it would feel even more awkward than asking someone else.

And the idea that this needs a shift towards "consent culture" is just... weird. Maybe some people can't read, or don't feel comfortable trying to read, the signs as to what will work socially, and if they want to set rules that's fine. I don't have any problem with someone who will only shake hands, or who won't have any physical contact at all - hell, if they want to follow your rule of always asking, I'd feel awkward, but if that's what you prefer then whatever, I'm fine with that. But don't assume everyone needs to follow your rule. For the record I've never asked anyone if they want to have sex, that hasn't lead to me raping anyone.

I acknowledge that you would not like to be asked for a hug. Different people like to be treated differently. But my rule accounts for one thing: there is more potential for harm by not asking. Better safe than sorry, as it were. You are welcome to ignore my suggestion :-)

(Also, the article doesn't suggest you ask everyone before you have sex with them; it's more about being mindful of "is this person really into it, or could I be pressuring them?" If you believe it is impossible for this to happen, think again, as all perception is skewed by personal bias)

Re: your parentheses. I didn't read the article, but your point of "ask everyone if they want a hug", if it's important enough for that, surely you should definitely ask everyone when it comes to sex! The "ask yourself if they are OK with it" approach is exactly what most people do with handshakes/hugs/etc.

> Do not hug someone without asking first.

Nope. I usually know when a hug will be good and I'm ready to be wrong. I'm not going to pussyfoot my way through every slightly-more-intimate interaction I take in this life.


This guy got fired for obvious sexism in the workspace, which was made visible by refusing to shake a woman’s hands on the ground that his religion forbids him to do so.

Wouldn't that be religious discrimination though?

Yes. But religious freedom is usually[0] limited to cases were it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others. The right to be protected from sexual discrimination in the workplace is usually a pretty strongly-enforced right, and this also wasn’t a private meeting but a public, work-related one.

[0] Depending on your jurisdiction, the phase of the moon and sufficiently many other things that this message box is too small to list them all.

Growing up it was regular for all my male friends to hug when greeting each other. I still do this with new male friends if we haven't seen each other in a long time, or are just happy to see each other.

Thank god I'm not the only one who worries about this.

What I do is imagine I'm going for a handshake, if their arm extends it's likely they're looking for a handshake, otherwise turn it into a soft hug!

I am a 32 year old male from South America... here a handshake is way to formal for most interactions... For example... You go out with 2 friends for a beer... they bring a 3rd friend you don't really know... it's ok to shake his hand, but if you kiss him, nobody will be offended...

Scenario 2 : You are at a birthday party/after office/whatever social gathering, and you are presented a person from the opposite sex DO NOT shake his/her hand... That is as rude as you can get, what are you afraid of?

Scenario 3 : You go to your girlfriends house, and are introduced to his father, you shake his hand, because you ate trying to show respect. After the first few visits, you will most likely kiss him hello/goodbye

Also, in Latin America we do 1 kiss mostly, in Brazil 2 kisses are the norm, some other places are up to 3...

So I believe no matter what happens, try to talk about it, stay open, and remember that awkwardness tends to go away the minute you say "I'm sorry, that was awkward, was I supposed to kiss or shake?"

Cheers everybody,

mike out.

It is so refreshing to hear from somebody outside of the US.

A primary problem I have with any sort of bodily contact: When it is not genuine. (And my intuition is pretty good on this point.)

Where this perhaps becomes a problem for me is when I correspondingly cannot "fake it", whether that be a "firm, engaging" handshake, or hug (ugh...), or whatever.

I welcome a firm handshake at the end of conversation or negotiation with a straight-dealing, engaged counter-party.

I despise the glad-handing salesman or the like. And, dude, when you sidle up next to me and drape your arm over my shoulder? GTFO.

Hugging someone with whom I don't have some level of intimacy? In significant part an exercise in not pressing the wrong body parts together.

Hugging someone who is a real friend? A momentary welcoming of their physical presence and comfort in same.

So, to summarize: Welcome contact comes from being respectful and cognizant of our relationship (or lack thereof).


> And, dude, when you sidle up next to me and drape your arm over my shoulder? GTFO.

That also goes -- this is from a hetero male perspective -- for the overly touchy female. There are some who use physical contact as a tool for foisting a temporary intimacy onto another party that is used for one degree or another of manipulation.

Guys do this, too -- if you read my "dude", above, as being male; although it could be taken in a gender-neutral fashion.

The point of my postscript is to clarify that, from my perspective, both genders can do this... "over-touching", although the details may vary from instance to instance.

I know it's done in good part because it often works, to greater or lesser degree. But, I for one find it annoying as hell because it is not genuine, and/or it seeks to exercise a degree of control and manipulation I do not welcome.

I think the decision to hug or shake depends more on the body language in the context of the situation, than it does on the nature of a given relationship. Even if someone is not an investor or manager, it would not be appropriate to hug him or her if their body language was closed off.

"I think the decision to hug or shake...."

Two great greetings that go great together!

This has been bothering me for a while, and I generally come down on the side of hugging. Hand shaking with a woman always seems to me like I'm forcing a male to male ritual on the situation. No matter how formal the meeting is, it always seems off. Now, granted, I'm not going to hug the female CEO of a company I'm doing business with at the first meeting, but even so, a handshake still feels off.

My general rule of thumb is – if I'm comfortable with the person and she's a woman, it's a hug. If I'm not comfortable, it's a handshake and a small inner sigh at the inadequacy of it. I don't consciously think about if it's work or not work, but I do of course tend to feel less comfortable with work contacts than I do with other social contacts, at least for the first few meetings.

What about a handshake makes you feel it is a male ritual?

must be a slow news day, this got picked up by beatabeat: http://betabeat.com/2013/05/to-hug-or-not-to-hug-hacker-news...

A news vehicle writing an article solely to poke fun at a niche online community. 21st century Journalism...

At least now we all know that people saying that HN turns into Reddit are not actually complaining, but complimenting on the improvements!

The worst type of handshake is the one between (typically) two men where a guy is trying to assert himself and clamp down on your hand with a firm handshake but they clamp too early. Instead of gripping your hand when the cruxes of your thumbs and forefingers meet, he clamps down on your fingers and mashes them painfully. I cannot help but feel that people know when they are doing this, but they silently persist in it anyway because they get to assert their dominant role as if to say, "Ha, I have the upper hand," with this smugly underhanded gesture. It also seems like people that do this tend to be overbearing and obnoxious in general. Has anyone else noticed this?

I don't like shaking hands (business handshakes are fine) or hugging unless it's a loved one or someone you are really close to and generally want to feel the embrace from the hug. Otherwise I think it's just pointless touching to signify some non-existant closeness.

What's wrong with just saying "hi"? Or a friendly fist-bump if you want to do something more fun?

I especially hate meeting a new group of people and having to shake every hand. It's so stupid.

As an American now living in Germany I always have to hug every single friend I've met more than once. I do it just because it's the expected behavior but I don't necessarily enjoy it.

FWIW I do feel like I'm a real life Larry David sometimes.

I am from Germany and greet my friends with a ‘hi’ and no handshakes, especially in academic backgrounds. At the THW, people shook hands, which was fine with me, too. Furthermore, handshakes if you meet for the first time in any context, unless the group is so large you don’t get introduced to everyone individually.

Hugs are for close family and I will make it very obvious that I don’t want to hug you if you try.

I wish my friends were like you!

I will state the obvious but to answer your "what's wrong" question, it is purely cultural and learned. If you were from, let's say a Europe Latin country, you would feel odd to not have any kind of physical contact when meeting someone.

What even worse is the cultures where you throw another type of hello/goodbye gesture into the mix.

Take Montreal, Canada: Half of the population there says goodbye via two air kisses, half hug, then you got the formal handshakes into the mix. Nobody announces what they're doing when they go in, so it's not uncommon to get the hug + two air kisses, which feels a little sexual to me.

To add to the complexity, you have people of different cultures in the city. Arab men for example kiss on the cheek but don't kiss the women. So you need to size a person's culture, sex + the level of the relationship up whenever saying hello or goodbye to people.

Most of the time even a handshake can be too much.

Reminds me a post from David Cohen [1] who pointed to Brad Feld on the same topic [2].

Time to wake up that bro courage and start fist-bumping people ;)

With hugging there's always also the dilemma of whether to pat a few times or just a strong hug, so the CPU cycles just drive me mad.

[1] http://www.davidgcohen.com/2012/11/20/not-shaking-hands/

[2] http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2009/01/im-done-with-handsha...

I like to use spacing here. There's a sweet spot between hug distance and handshake distance where you can often read which the other person wants to go for and likewise telegraph to them which one you have in mind. A barely perceptible move back and shake or a gentle move in and hug, or perhaps something else entirely. Body language is your friend.

This comment originally started as an analogy to striking distance and grappling distance in a fight, but I couldn't make it read unsatirically.

Generally speaking, if it's business, no hugging, unless the person is also a good friend. If someone I had met exactly once before decided to hug me the second time, and it was in a work context, I would put them solidly in the creeper bucket. Sorry.

(Demographic disclaimer: I am a woman and an engineering manager. Also Australian which I think means I have a slightly bigger personal space than the average American.)

>>kiss on the cheek

Interesting I don't think that I have ever seen that except on TV/movies. (Outside of grandparents and grandchildren)

I've always thought of hugs involving males as reserved for family and close female friends (or your girl friend/wife’s close female friends). Hug in a business setting.. never!

I've also thought handshakes should be as medium strength as possible.

I live in the U.S. Great Lakes region/Midwest.

In Spain (where I come from) that's usual except in the most formal environment when a female is involved (male/female and female/female). For example, the first time I meet my (female) boss (or coworker), I'll give a handshake. Once we have a working relationship, is common to cheek-kiss (twice, starting left, just touching the cheeks, and optionally kissing to the air, doing very obviously and simulating loudly the sound is very posh)

If the relationship is close, you can actually kiss the cheek of the other person, but that's optional. If the relationship is very close, you will hug and kiss on the cheek, but just once.

On males, if the relationship is close (family or close friends), you'll get the hug and kiss once, though it depends on people. A "casual" handshake and/or hug it's the common for friends.

All this complicated ritual is called "kissing", so I guess can be difficult to know when to do what for foreign people, but it gets typically done in a very casual way, so most people won't feel very awkward if they try to kiss and get a handshake or otherwise.

Curiously, only a couple of months after I came to Ireland, I met the girlfriend of a coworker, and she introduces herself with a handshake. I shake her hand, and then said: "Oh, I'm too new here, I almost kiss you". Just as the words escaped my mouth I got how weird that sounds (the look on her face was also funny). I didn't talk to her on the rest of the night or try to explain myself. Too embarrassing :-D (I've talked to her later, so I don't think there's bad feelings involved or anything)

Maybe it's me and my clearly misogynistic contributing-to-the-patriarchy-and-oppressing-my-female attitude toward the whole thing, but with females I always try my hardest to be friendly with hugs over handshakes. Most of them are totally okay with this (even my former professors), but if not, it was my privilege to embarrass myself and come off as a creeper to you.

In a work environment, ALWAYS make sure to use the proper business hugs:

1) http://youtu.be/80yjtJFf-v0 2) http://youtu.be/_zQviu9N6Hc 3) http://youtu.be/A_6UzC-dw04

I generally don't mind being hugged (given adequate cleanliness of the hugger and absence of anything that could be considered creepy, e.g. lingering groin contact) but I prefer the two-handed handshake (the "full Clinton") as a way to express more warmth than a plain handshake and less um, intimacy than a hug.

I shake hands with everyone on first meet or in an office environment, male or female. Outside of an office environment, I'll still shake on a first meet, but am happy to hug, cheek kiss or whatever else if I know the person.

Edit: just do whatever you do with confidence and a smile. Doesn't really matter after that.

Women wanted to be treated equally to the men in the workplace, so no hugs from me. Simple and straightforward.

This is silly logic.

If you were really treating women equally to men, you wouldn't follow a "what's good for one is good for the other" policy. You'd accept that the norms and behaviors of each gender should be held in equal regard, and adapt your own behavior to the person or group of people you're talking with. Acknowledging, in other words, that women have as much right to be in the workplace as men, rather than treating their actions as somehow foreign or alien to the "acceptable" male norms.

I mean, your simple and straightforward logic is the logic that four-year-old boys use when they want to punch girls on the playground and don't feel like being courteous.

This is very non-silly logic. Why should I care about your chromosome configuration or sexual identification? It is not my business, and I expect you to respect that. Hence it is absolutely obvious to treat men and women equally and not adapt one’s greetings procedures to the gender of the other person.

After all, punching girls is exactly as appropriate as punching guys.

If you think that treating genders equally has nothing to do with accepting variations in social norms, then you're missing pretty much the whole purpose of the "treat women equally to men" thing.

Gender inequality is almost wholly a social problem, not a biological one. And

> Gender inequality is almost wholly a social problem, not a biological one.

Yes. A problem where people find it appropriate for women to hug men but not for men to hug women. A problem where people find it appropriate for women to hug women but not for men to hug men. A problem where people find it appropriate to expect men to hug women. A problem where people find it appropriate for boys punching boys but not for boys punching girls.

You can hardly get any more gender-unequal than that.

I don't see gender-neutrality as terrible for the workplace, even if I am a hugger by default.

I try to short-circuit awkwardness by putting my hand up to high-five people. If there's someone between handshake and hug, I've found that gesture is comfortable enough for most, explains the situation without saying anything, and gives everyone a way out. Your mileage may vary.

I came here to say this. Oh course it is not perfect all the time, but I find it useful in team and personal-world situations all the time. Sometimes, if i'm feeling really campy, i say "good game" too (if it is at the end of something).

I find it hard doing a handshake with females, I always try not to apply too much strength and in result end up with taking their hands like they used to do with princesses - you know, I end up holding their fingers. And that makes it even more awkward :-(

This reminds me of the awkward greeting between 50 cent and Erin Andrews. In that situation should 50 cent have greeted her with a hug and kiss or was that inappropriate? Was Erin Andrews right to act the way she did because she was working?

Social interaction is probably the most complicated thing we do. Even as engineers.

It all depends on the country of origin of the person you are dealing with. In Brazil, for example, is very common to both handshake and give a cheek kiss on women after the first meeting, even if in a formal environment.

Agreed, I'm American but went to a French business school. I am still completely thrown off even with cheek-kissing women, and god help me when one of the guys goes in for the double-double.

Go for the one arm hug. It's half handshake half hug, it's a hugshake.

Hug more people imo, geez

Many people appear to be offended and creeped out by that, at least in some cultures. And especially females if you're a male.


I offer a hug to anyone who I'm not in a professional relationship with. Most people seem to like this, and if they don't, I switch to a 'bro hug' in mid-motion. Nice and simple.

I think this is a nice technique and have tried it with more or less success, also, I tried to appeal to the normality of hugging someone by just calling someone out "Stop whining and hug me please!" :)

Meh, I just tell people hugs make me feel uncomfortable. Some people are fine, some demand a big hug to help me out of my shell. Either way it's a win.

Easy: shake hands, always. Hugging is for close family.

I suspect that if someone I were in business with tried to hug me, we'd not be in business for very much longer.

Guide to give the perfect man-hug http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUdWApwbudQ

If it looks like it is going to be weird, I try to ask people if they are a hand-shaker or a hugger. I am cool with whatever makes them comfortable.

Slapping? Or is that weird?

Backslapping without a hug is definitely weird.

I generally let the other person initiate contact and just go with the flow. If you have any doubt, it's best to err on the side of handshakes.

Switch it up to a fist bump - often makes people laugh, specially if it's an uptight business situation + it's more hygenic....

In India always handshake never hug. I mean never hug unless she is very comfortable around you.

Is there any acceptance for bowing outside East Asia, or salutes outside of the military?

I've heard stories of some American professional environments borrowing Japanese-style bowing during the 1980's, when Japanese business was revered by some in corporate America.

Then the 1990's happened, and now it doesn't seem like there's as much of a desire to emulate the superficial elements of Japanese business culture. That being said, I don't think that eastern-style bowing has ever been commonplace for western business environments.

Just go for the hug; why do you want to create distance?

Also, why would guys be any different?

It's a good question for old days Seinfeld!

Shane's such a good writer. well said

If in doubt bro-shake.

Solution: Fist Bump

it's awkward only if you make it awkward.

Unsure? Wave.

I wave!

Hugs are sexual harassment. Any unrequested contact with the opposite sex is cause for immediate termination (or expulsion if you're still in school) and may lead to criminal charges.

Different cultures are different, but this is the standard drill repeated from elementary school onward through workplace policies in my part of the US. People routinely ignore it without punishment, but it's there hanging over the head of everyone.

Hugs are sexual harassment.

That's just not true. A hug could be sexual harassment, but so could a really dirty handshake. Let's not live in a world where we're scared of normal interaction.

I now have a strong desire to shake your hand.


Sorry. You just made me laugh out loud.

The "harassment" component for sexual harassment is as much a requirement as the "sexual" part.

If someone asks for a hug and you don't want it, you can offer the handshake and just wait. The next time around, they probably won't offer the hug, but if they do you can do the same thing over. Nobody will seriously judge you for being a "handshaker and not a hugger".

As for doing some kind of predatory hugging, then yeah, it's obviously not cool, but I don't think any male could pull it off on a female without paying the social price.

Never visit Miami. Hugs AND kisses are routine (and contextually appropriate.)

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