Manner Monday®: Handshake or a Hug?

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by Carey Sue Vega in Business Etiquette, Manner Monday

During a recent Trade Show Booth training I developed for a company that participates in a wide variety of shows throughout the year; the question arose about clients: how formal or casual should you be during the greeting phase?

The question came about specifically when we were talking about the handshake. And we decided that the answer is not black and white. Yes, a nice firm handshake is a really important part of the first impression; but once you’ve gotten to know someone how do you decide the best way to greet them? And is a handshake always appropriate?

We started by understanding the history of the handshake; many resources cite how the handshake developed when men would approach each other offering their right hand to shake, demonstrating they come in peace and are not drawing their weapon. It has not been until recent years that women started shaking hands. If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you may have noticed the handshake evolve over the past few seasons. In the beginning of the series, the women would demurely clasp their hands in front of them while nodding their head during an introduction. During the last two seasons, Mary, has been taking a leading role in running the estate and you will see her initiate shaking hands quite often. And if you’ve been a student in an etiquette or professionalism continuing education class in recent years, you were more than likely taught how Business Etiquette should be gender neutral; men and women both should offer a nice firm handshake when meetings others.

After understanding the history of the handshake and the importance it plays in a first impression, we talked about how a person’s intuition comes into play. Does the person approaching your booth have their hands free and ready to shake? Is their body language open towards you? If their hands are full or their body language is not open, then no, a handshake may not be in order right off the bat. Just a simple verbal greeting to get the relationship started may be all that’s needed for now.

But what about a client you already know? Do you give them a high-five, or a hug? Sometimes an old-fashioned handshake seems awkward amongst ‘friends’? Again, the discussion centered on how important intuition and reading body language is for these greetings. And sometimes it boils down to following their lead; are they going for an old fashioned handshake, are they pulling you in for the ‘man-hug’, or are they coming at you with a full-on hug? Reading body language, understanding options, and tapping into your intuition – it’s a lot to juggle in a matter of seconds, but they’re all really important steps in making others feel comfortable during the greeting stage. And if all else fails, offer up a nice firm handshake, a smile, sincere ‘nice to see you’, and you can’t go wrong!

Do you know someone who would enjoy this post?  If so, please share it with them and encourage them to sign up to receive Manner Monday?  I would appreciate it!  And if you’re new to Manner Monday, I’d love for you to take a minute to learn more about why I started it. You can click here to read my very first post (five years ago – yowzer) that tells all about it.

Do you have a ‘manner’ or question you would like to see covered in a post?  Feel free to send me your thoughts, I would love to hear from you.

As always … Thanks for reading!
– Carey Sue

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  • Etiquette and the Generations – understanding ‘those guys’
  • Creating a Great Customer Service Experience
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  • First and Lasting Impressions
  • Professional Dress

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