Are You Going In For The Hug Instead of the Handshake?



going in for the hug instead of the handshakeEver have someone lean in for the hug when a handshake was more appropriate? It has happened to all of us. There is that awkward moment when we go to put out hand out and they are thrusting towards us and we are standing there as stiff as a board wondering what to do next. MOVE AWAY! It makes us feel uncomfortable and what is just a few seconds, feels like forever. Did they miss the memo that not everyone is a hugger or are they just treating everyone the same and hug away? While we appreciate the outward show of affection, we would just rather the handshake.


Going In For the Hug

A hug is a warm embrace that comes in many different forms as we have the bro hug, the screaming girl BFF hug, the family hug, the consoling hug, the intimate hug reserved for our partners and the of course obligatory hug as they went in. We have seen or experienced these all and while we may have adopted the General Store mentality, others are a bit more reserved on who they want to be that close to. How can we tell if someone is open to receiving a hug or prefers the handshake? Tough call however as we get to know people, we learn. We have learned in business that we need to treat our customers differently by identifying their wants and expectations and then fulfilling them. There are some client or customers who prefer a phone call to an email, some that focus more on the procedure/logistics than the time it takes where as others prefer to receive the final product and without much communication. It is up to us as a business to know how our client/customers wish to communicate with us. Very important in how we earn our customer share vs our market share.

The Handshake

A handshake is a warm greeting in an introduction, an acknowledgment of the person, a job well done and something that Bill Belichick seems to forget at the end of a Patriots/JETS game. The handshake is safe and still warm, it is not overdoing it by overwhelming or making people feel uncomfortable. In business this is more earning your market share as opposed to your customer share. Market share is to the masses where as the customer share is earning each customer by knowing them. The handshake is the masses. It is the standard greeting that many times is more appropriate than a hug. Although, we have to look at when we are launching something new. Are we targeting a more intimate group within our target market (the hug) or are we going to the entire target market and then some (the handshake)?

Knowing Your Clients/Customers

This is not new or groundbreaking advice. It is something that we all practice every single day. There are some customers that we adore and some that are more difficult that require us to take a few deep breaths before we communicate with them. We learn this pretty quickly and respect that. In social media there seems to be a bit of a disconnect. Do we know a lot about our connections? Are they prospects or those that share the same industry and would be a referral agent? What about our subscribers to email lists and blogs? Do we know which of them would be potential buyers and those that would never buy at all? Have we ever taken the time to look or is it more about the numbers?

Social media has reverted us back to the masses and not the individual customers. Peter Shankman recently wrote  I Will Never Hire a “Social Media Expert,” and Neither Should You where he talks about social media and how things have gone a bit awry:

“Rather than embracing this new technology and merging it with what we’ve learned already, we’re throwing off our clothes and running naked in the rain, waving our hands in the air, sure that this time it’ll be different, because this time it’s better!!”

How often do we go through our followers or friends and qualify them as prospects? When we have a blog article that breaks the barriers for us and gets us record traffic, do we look at those that shared and retweeted to see how they would fit into our business model of prospecting? This is more than visiting their profile, blog and sending a thanks and retweeting their articles. We get so caught up in the traffic numbers and forget that while the numbers look pretty and are shiny, the share of customer is so much more important to build brand loyalty and grow your company.

Are you going in for the hug or the handshake?

photo credit: ruben van eijk

  • It’s kind of a gift to find ways to quickly connect and bond with others, and make them feel like a hug is appropriate where a handshake would be enough. And yet again, there are situation where neither a hug or a handshake is appropriate. Think about japanese people, they don’t see handshakes as we see them, a respectful bow is more than appropriate for them.
    There are several shades of relationship you can achieve with anyone, and the true communicators are those that can fully understand where they stand with whom.

    • Gabriele

      Great point on the Japanese. It is about the bond and while I used the handshake/hug analogy, in social media we are forgetting about the bond and focusing on how to use the tools to reach the masses of the target market. Most have no idea what their followers do and have never gotten to the point of having the handshake not to mention the hug.

      The general store mentality something we should look at and remember the owner of the store knew everyone by name and what they did. Now, not too many care; except when it is time to promote their ebook or other product. 

  • There’s so much we could talk about when it comes to this Suzanne.

    Hugging represents a level of caring that a handshake can never articulate. 

    When we look at our followers and those who shared and retweeted, we need to care about them enough to see how we can help them . . . upfront, unconditionally and without a scorecard.

    It means that we embrace them in acknowledging them, listening to them and truly understanding that they, just like us, have a story and wish to be heard.

    Do that, and you will truly create a vibe of “Wow . . . this person cares” and as a bonus, you get to stand out!

    And before I forget Suzanne . . . this was very timely and extremely well done!

    Paul Castain

    • Paul

      Such a wonderful comment and so well said. Everyone has a story that they want heard and giving them the time to tell it with 2 ears is so powerful and rewarding. You do stand out as you are one of the few that really took the time to understand them and get to know them/their needs and identify how you can help them.

      Thank you for your kind words but your comment has made the article so much better and worth reading. I thank you for that.

  • I’ve noticed the world seems to be on the verge of becoming too “handshakey”.  I think social media, rapid emails and mobile technology put a reduction on some of the “hugs”.  I’m a staunch “hugger” but we do need to keep in mind that not everyone appreciates the hug.  You need to offer what’s appreciated by them.  But one solution… shake the hand and do either an arm-squeeze around the elbow or the partial back-pat/hug.  A good post Suzanne and I appreciate this kind of blog post that makes me think.   

    • Jacob

      I did not really think about the arm squeeze or the back pat. Great thought there. With the shiny new social media tool where we can reach people and talk with them has become a masses tool and not a treat each customer in a manner that they wish to be. Look it is hard to treat each customer differently however but at the same time, it is just as hard if not harder to treat them all the same. You lose the human side when you robotically treat customers the same.

      Customers/clients want to feel wanted and a part of the business. They need a connection in order to be loyal. We are missing that in social media right now. 

  • Anonymous

    good article.  hugging is way too much for any work situation. it implies a level of intimacy not consistent with board room meetings and conference calls. it also makes me highly uncomfortable to get that close to someone i barely know outside of the context of work.  GTFO with that nonsense, please.