Hugs Versus Handshakes In Business

I have a confession to make: In my life and business I’m a hugger. I hug my friends, I hug my clients, and I hug the people who come out to my events.

At one event a woman told me she thought hugging was completely unprofessional, and that’s when I knew I just had to talk about hugs versus handshakes in an episode of She Takes on the World TV.

I don’t really like handshakes unless it’s for an initial meeting, or if someone kind of creeps me out. There are a few other situations that I think call for handshakes instead of hugs, and I’ll discuss those in today’s episode.

Watch below (or click here):

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Now I want to hear from you: Do you think hugging is appropriate in business, or is hand-shaking the way to go?

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57 thoughts on “Hugs Versus Handshakes In Business

  1. I feel so sad for people who don’t hug in their businesses!! I’m partnered with a multi billion dollar company, and when people first meet within the company- they hug!! It only enhances the success because we’re such an amazing family 🙂 If you can’t hug, you’re in the wrong career!!

      1. Natalie & Nina,
        Mary Kay is my multi-billion dollar company, & everyone from the President & CEO on down to the newest sales consultant will hug on first meetings! It’s a total family atmosphere. We learned it from the best–Mary Kay Ash–who would shake your hand, look you in the eye, & make you feel as if you were the only person in the room–no matter how many people were waiting in line to speak with her! That has evolved into a company of huggers!

        1. I love hearing that corporate environments like that are out there. I’m guessing you met Mary Kay Ash then before she passed away? That’s awesome, definitely a powerhouse female mogual she was.

          1. No, Natalie. Unfortunately I never got closer than balcony space from her, but I WAS at the last Seminar she was able to attend. I know several women who met her in person, & had training from her. I saw her in action with people at that Seminar. I would consider myself extremely blessed to have been able to shake her hand, & get a hug from her. Her grandson, Ryan, says that we (the salesforce) are “the only Mary Kay my daughter will ever meet,” so we all try to carry on her legacy of Faith first, family second, & career third. MK said that P&L stands for “people & love,” not just profit & loss.

  2. LOL

    I think you have to feel the person in front of you to see if it’s going to be a hug or a handshake. And you have to do what is authentic to you! If you’re a hugger be a hugger! It’s beautiful!

    BTW, that lady needs a hugs to melt down the ice.
    🙂

  3. Upon meeting someone for the first time I always shake their hand. I feel like once you have made it to the hugging stage with a client “you are in,” and they look at you like a part of the team or family. I also agree with Carolin, you’ve got to feel the person out first to see if they are a hugger or a shaker.

  4. I’m a hugger! I will do handshakes in a formal setting where I don’t know anyone, but like you, I quickly revert to hugs by the next meeting. I’ll also only hug if there’s a positive vibe. I won’t hug if I don’t connect with someone. Go hugs!

  5. Ugh – this woman’s vision is very sad :/ And yes it’s very corporate-minded.

    I haven’t been either (hand shaker or hugger) so far, in France we do the typical kiss on cheek when meeting so that’s what I have been doing. But why not hugging? I’m open to the idea.

    I believe that we need more feminine leadership in this world; a leadership that has feminine principles at its core and it’s something that you embody beautifully and share week after week. Thanks for this video! Value-packed and fun as usual.

    Comic hugs back,

    Nadine

    1. Ah yes, France, one of my fave countries… I believe at the Conquer Club Paris launch I did both the cheek kisses and hugs 😉 I actually love that you guys greet everyone with the kisses over there. It’s very friendly and welcoming. I can’t wait to get over there for another meet-up!

  6. I am a hugger, & 99.99% of my clients & business associates are also. There are some few people who are not–& I respect their space. I don’t believe most people in business will look down on you for being the person you are. If they do, you don’t want to do business with that judgemental a person anyway, do you?

  7. I’m a hugger. I wasn’t always but the more I get comfortable in my own skin, the more I realize that’s its ok to express my feelings/unique personality. Having said that, I will always ask people if its ok. And…I’ve never been turned down. Hey, can’t we use a little more love and compassion in the business world?!

  8. Great Video Natalie! As for hugging or handshaking… I’d say I am more of a hand shaker…. if that…. I really like to maintain my own personal space so most often, the people I do business with will just get a big smile from me. Pretty sure this has a lot to do with the fact that my initial business experience did come from the Corporate world.

      1. Hehe… well, I make exceptions for people I admire 😉 … but yeah, I have my thoughts on my reasons why… too many boyfriend / friend / colleague burns, perhaps. The human psychology really is something fascinating, isn’t it?

  9. Hi Natalie,
    I feel in the “new business style” in the blogosphere, professional is also personal, it’s all about people and not corporation.
    Thus => HUGS… and looking forward to hug YOU 😉

    1. Likewise, and I think because of this new way of doing business people feel like they know each other before they meet! At my events, people have usually been connected to me online for a few years so they feel they know me already. One of my good friends Natalie Sisson connected with me almost four years ago and we knew each other pretty well before we met for the first time and launched our WE Mastermind program! The internet breaks down a lot of walls.

  10. Hand shaker… I don’t hug my clients, it would be weird… but then I’m a social worker, we have different vastly different clientele. A hug could be seen as exploitive and I think that when I shake hands, I’m actually demonstrating that I value them as equals. But I’ll give you a hug when we meet!

  11. I am a hugger to be sure. But I’ve had to moderate it in professional situations. I’m with you – if I wanted to subject myself to corporate regulations, I would not have started my own business and be creating my own culture! That said, I try to match the energy of the people I am meeting – it’s very important to meet people on their level.

  12. I always like to shake hands, but I feel like a lot of women aren’t prepared for the hand shake. It’s as if they need handshake lessons. I started in the finance industry with mostly men and they always shook my hand. I don’t like when someone goes in for the hug when we are just meeting or are there to talk about business. It might be a Minnesota thing, because I know we midwesterners like our space. I don’t mind hugging after a strong connection has been formed or we’ve shared an experience. But until then, keep it to a handshake please.

  13. I’m totally a hugger. I believe a lot in hugs, and I love the fact that the personal-development field is so personal. It allows for hugs to be professional as well. I help people get over some of the most intimate obstacles in their lives, why oh why would hugging be bad?

    Besides, human touch (and especially hugs) is very therapeutic. Especially when you hug with the right energy 🙂

    However, I still work in the corporate environment. Over here, of course I don’t hug. That doesn’t seem to jive well with the sterile atmosphere.

  14. Initially it starts with a hug. At the end of conversations that are authentic, I feel obligated to give a hug:) It’s good for establishing honest bonding in business and friendships.

  15. This is so funny! Because I’ve had the same ISSUE! I am a total hugger. However when I first started in corporate…I was immediately taught to BEWARE of hugging and that made me SO uncomfortable. It took me 3 years of working with my direct manager to get a hug…and it was the day I accepted a new role.

  16. I just commented on my facebook page today on a psychology today article about the power of touch. I work in senior care and I see how vital hugging and hand holding is to connection.

    I would say I do often hug at work and when greeting colleagues but always handshake on the initial meeting and many times thereafter if I sense the other person is not a hugger. I think it is a matter of being in touch with the comfort level of those we work with. I work in an industry with many “professional” men where hugging would not be appropriate but the manner of our handshake can send a warm yet professional message as well.

    1. That’s a great point about the manner of the handshake, Kelly. When I do shake someone’s hand I do it in a “way.” I give a firm shake and put my left hand on their hand too, to make it very friendly. I also look at them in a way that says, “I see you!” People just want to feel acknowledged and seen.

  17. I am a shaker more than a hugger, however, I have found that even in the professional networking world that I frequent the people I see more than once hug me and I am fine with it. I don’t necessarily offer a hug, but I’ll participate. 🙂

    I don’t think it discredits you as a professional to hug, unless you are doing the “hug that is more than a hug – you know the full body hug” kind of squeeze.

    I can’t end this with out saying “Hugs”. LOL! It only seems appropriate.

  18. I’m a hugger…but not on the first meeting 🙂 I like hand shakes, too. Those work for first meetings and, like you Natalie, I tend to be more cautious when hugging men but feel perfectly fine with a handshake. Mostly, I just trust my intuition about the person I’m with. I tend to be a little uncomfortable at times when others hug me – especially if I don’t feel like I know them very well.

    1. I hear ya! When I first started doing events it was a little odd that people would come and give me a big hug and I didn’t really know who they were. I quickly got comfortable with it though 🙂

  19. I read Megatrends years ago (definitely before you were even born!) and it discussed the hi-tech/high touch concept. It’s my belief that in today’s e-social world, people need physical people contact now more than ever in a one-on-one encounter. Many of my customers get hugs from me because they need and deserve them, based on their life situation. At the very least, if not a hug, you can give a touch on the arm or a pat on the back- some kind of physical expression that says “I hear you- I care”. Hugs vs handshakes- I’m about 50/50 but am definitely a hugs fan!

  20. I missed this- caveat: make sure the person you approach to hug is good with it- otherwise you could be charged with assault (as unbelievable as that sounds!)

  21. Natalie, I am delighted to be a hugger. It’s such an honour to have that moment of humanity with people.
    In my former role, I headed up a team of fundraisers who worked with corporate leaders. For me, it was always a report card of our relationships when we walked into rooms of business people and they initated hugs with my team members. That told me that we had built real relationships – when it’s only about the money, people tend to run from folks in my sector.
    ‘Loved this discussion.

  22. I am a proud hugger, and would also shake hands if the situation requires so.
    There are many ways to hug and I like ‘the respectful non invasive’ one when I don’t know the person well and the profuse jumpy effusive one when it’s someone I know well!
    My experience is that even grumpy/distant people melt away and relax when you give them a friendly respectful hug. Love is irresistible.

  23. Hi Natalie,

    I’ve just found your website and thought it fortuituos that I landed on this weekly video. It is the corporate non-hugging world that my once little always hugging company has become that has made me really get my butt in gear with my own business adventures. I prefer to work in a family oriented space where you could get a hug from almost anyone for a job well done to a regrets for your loss situation. My old mentor actually decided to retire last year early. When I asked her why, she responded “I don’t want to work in an environment where I don’t feel comfortable hugging my boss anymore”. It’s taken me another year to GET IT, but when my current COO wouldn’t pay for the meat for our Holiday Party this year let alone even show up for the festivities, well needless to say I GET IT now.

    I look forward to catching up on all your TV entries and subscribing to all upcoming entries as well.

    Hugs, and more hugs

    Shelby

  24. Absolutely a hugger and I follow all of the same rules you do – except one…. I hug a lot of men. I work in a male dominated industry (video games) but I have drawn a clear line all of my life with everyone that just gets a hug.

    Unfortunately, this backfired on me in a way that no one could ever have predicted. During some really tough times in my personal life – in 18 months my husband and I accepted permanent infertility, lost my Dad and my family fell apart, we lost our dog and felt blessed to still have each other and our careers. During this time I stayed home from industry events. I knew all of the hugging would put me in tears and that would be really unprofessional. This resulted in hermiting and significantly extending the healing process.

    It has been 3.5 years since it all began and though I am stronger than ever before, it was a very long road to emotional recovery.

    I won’t stop hugging though!!

  25. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has struggled with handshakes vs. hugs because of corporate expectations! As a consultant/coach, I find myself moving from one organization to the next, and more often than not, the organizational culture frowns on hugs. But there are days when it seems like one of my coworkers [or myself] needs a hug, and we don’t feel comfortable doing that at a client location because of the organizational culture! I realized that my own “rules” around hugging have changed since I became a consultant and blogged about it at http://allisonpollard.squarespace.com/blog/2014/1/24/changing-personal-rules-to-be-more-authentic

  26. Just came across this! Brilliant!

    I have a thing with putting kisses on emails, and my rule is, “Would I kiss this person on the cheek in real life?”

    I put a kiss when I’m emailing people on my list, because as well as calling them all the Yes Yes Marsha Mailer Family, i DO feel like they’re family, so i WOULD hug them or kiss them on the cheek.

  27. Thanks for this post! I am absolutely a hugger myself and I never realized it until I was promoted into a management position and the staff who replaced me made a comment saying, “I’ve noticed, you hug everyone!” I don’t think she meant it in a mean way, but it did make me overly cautious of how much I hug and if the person on the receiving end is a hugger. I am a very friendly person and I typically don’t hug the first time I meet someone, but since she made this comment I have been very observant and have gotten to the point where I only hug when I really know the person. I too don’t believe it’s a negative characteristic and people trust me because I am genuine. I liked the comment above that you must be authentic. People can read right through you if you are not. Thanks again for this! It’s nice to know us huggers are not alone 🙂

  28. This is really interesting. I’m a hugger too, but I hadn’t thought about it in business before. Working with clients, I’ve noticed two distinctly different approaches in business, though: the adversarial “across the table” type of business, and the “let’s be a team” approach. Hugging certainly comes from the latter approach! Whether you choose to hug or not, I think the mindset and intention behind it is what matters.

  29. I’m a hugger. Everyone gets a hug from me that knows me. I work in real estate, and when I initially meet clients, the handshake comes first. But the point of being your own boss, is to be able to do what you want. And if I feel comfortable with them, I give them a hug by the end of first meeting. You never know what kind of day someone is having, and a hug is the easiest and most touching way to let someone know you care. I care about my clients, and I want them to be happy. And if someone isn’t comfortable with it, you know right away. But, I’ve never had someone get mad at me for giving them a hug. I have even had clients move in for the hug before I do! If people like you and like what you are doing and representing, it’s completely natural and comfortable for someone to embrace you. There needs to be more love in this world. So we should all hug more often. 🙂

  30. Just wanted to jump in here as a male “hugger”. I think it’s fine and hug most of my clients and all female coworkers. I’ve wondered if it came off as unprofessional or demeaning but I decided not to care. I figure if it’s a big deal, folks will get out of my way and let me hug someone else.

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