Thursday, November 26th, 2020

Business Etiquette – Handshakes or Hugging?

By Deborah Kimmett on Aug 30 2011 • Filed under Business

Is it okay to kiss at business networking events? (Photo)People have actually said, “Deb, you are a good hugger.” Others have said, “You can let go now; you’re acting like a stalker.”

At cocktail parties around K town, there seems to be a lot of people double kissing — a gaggle of revellers who insist that one kiss is not enough; that if you kiss them you are going to have to turn the other cheek.

This is how it goes. You say, “Oh, hi!” and move toward the person, perhaps kissing them on one side of the cheek, and then just when you’re about to move on to the next person, they pull you back in for the second smooch. Frankly, it feels contrived, affected really, but when I expressed my concern to one partygoer, she said, “Dahling, the double kiss is so Montreal.” She said it with a British accent (even though she’s from Napanee), which proves my point.

This double kissing has also leaked into the business world.I travel a lot for work. One week I was in Montreal and later in the same week I was in Toronto in hopes of securing a particular deal. During a momentary lapse of memory, I forgot which city I was in, leaned in and double kissed my perspective client — right on the smacker. I turned red and said, “It’s so Montreal.” Suffice it to say, I got the job.

My point is that no matter what city you live in, the double kiss does not belong at work. Can you imagine Donald Trump saying, “It’s a done deal; we double kissed on it.” In fact, in some businesses the double kiss means the deal’s off; that when you get home there’ll be a horse head in your bed — lest we forget the Godfather movies.

The reason I’m protesting this so much is because I had just gotten the whole hugging thing down. I had learned to hug just the right amount of time, not too tight, not too long. I had learned to put down my purse so I could do it with both arms. People have actually said, “Deb, you are a good hugger.” Others have said, “You can let go now; you’re acting like a stalker.”

But it is a miracle I can hug at all, given where I come from. My people are a repressed tribe; we’re Irish. It’s not that body contact is repulsive to us — we love a good bar fight — but we don’t go around touching people when we’re sober. When I was growing up, if a woman embraced you it was likely she was burping you or performing the Heimlich maneuvre. Some of the tenderest moments of my childhood were when I had a piece of gristle lodged in my windpipe.

And the men? Well, they stood outside by the truck and if a woman walked by, they put their eyes to the ground for fear they should turn to stone. Sure, there was an occasional relative who would say, “Come on, give us a hug.” That one uncle would hug, the one you wanted to avoid like the plague, the same one who would come up to my aunts and say, “Why don’t you ladies smile?” Like women are supposed to walk around grinning all day!

Random hugging like this starts to feel forced. It has no meaning; a lot like the standing ovation. People in this country stand up for anything. Maybe a Grade 3 student’s harp recital of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star doesn’t actually require you to jump to your feet and yell, “Encore!” Half the time, I’m not sure if the audience likes the performance or they’re trying to beat the rush in the parking lot.

So instead of running around hugging and double kissing, maybe we could return to the handshake. The handshake is acceptable with people you know and people you don’t. It says, “I may like you. I may not. You’ll never know.” The handshake is two hands coming together. You can look a person in the eye, so they can’t pick-pocket you.  

Whether we shake hands, hug or double kiss, I just think we should all get on the same page. Whatever we decide, it should reflect the times we’re living in. With the onslaught of global warming, maybe it’s time hand-held fans come back into vogue. Not those hand-held electric jobbies, but the old-fashioned fan, like the ones from a Jane Austin movie. We could sit coyly on the divan and flutter it back and forth in front of our faces. Of course, at my age, people might not know if I was saying hello or having a hot flash.

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