Should we kiss, hug or just shake hands? My greeting etiquette bewilderment.


The over-affectionate hug from Groundhog Day

I read a recently article about proper handshake etiquette in different countries. Never mind that; it’s difficult on home turf!

As, despite me saying In a recent blogpost that remembering names is the thing I find most difficult about networking (and other social occasions), this is the area that causes me the greatest consternation.

I recall well the time someone approached me at an event and, thinking they were looking at someone over my shoulder, I turned round to see who it was, before realising that they had intended an affectionate greeting and I had unwittingly cold-shouldered them. That was very embarrassing, although a different type of awkwardness to the occasion when I nearly got entangled in the wide-brimmed hat of the groom’s mother while bravely going for more than a handshake in the wedding line-up.

As a product of the Scottish north-east and rural Perthshire, being tactile is not in my nature. I do not generally carry it off with any ease or elegance thanks to over-thinking it as I’m about to demonstrate. And even among those who are not as inherently standoffish as I am, there is still room for doubt and confusion. (See this post about hugging in the workplace as an example although part of me thinks the article is a spoof.)

For example, there are at least seven ways to greet someone, most commonly in my world: handshake, kiss, double kiss, hug, handshake and hub combo, hug and kiss combo or nothing tactile at all.

And which one of these I choose depends on five main factors: the occasion, who else is there, if I’ve drunk enough to get over my natural inhibition, any known greeting preferences by the other person and what it appears they may do.

7 to the power of 5 gives 16807 possible scenarios, all dependent on the above factors. It’s a crude calculation, and I’m not even sure I’ve applied it exactly right, but the upshot is the same: it’s no wonder I get confused. And I can think of other variables too, but I’ve already taken this too far.

I long to be more like my wife, who simply greets people as she sees fit and without a second thought. How can that be achieved? I don’t know and I doubt there are any easy answers, which leaves this post as being rather pointless, except it may be somewhat cathartic. As with my previous comments about forgetting names, it may also go some way to reassuring those that I have offended in the past – or may offend in the future – that the slight is entirely unintentional.

In the unlikely event that someone does have any tips to help me get over myself, I can promise a big hug by way of thanks!


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