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Hugging Etiquette Basics

Updated on May 24, 2009

There are those that are huggers and those that are not. I have to admit I am in the last category, however I am not as "anti-hugging" as I used to be. In my travels I have definitely found that in some geographic locations hugging is just more normalized and more common, while in others it is not. While I don't have any hard and fast evidence or statistics, it seems to me the farther south you get the more common hugging is, especially between non-family members. Hugging just isn't done in social or family situations, more and more I am seeing hugging at business meetings, community gatherings and even random acts of hugging whenever and wherever.

If you are a hugger, and I mean that only in the most appropriate way, there are some basic hugging rules that really need to be followed.

Tree Hugging: Gotta Love It

Rule #1 – Personal Space Boundaries

Huggers often have very small personal space boundaries. Personal space is the invisible area around your body that you don't want to have invaded, especially by someone you don't know or don't like. For most people living in what is considered a western civilization, personal space is approximately a circle of about 20 inches around the body. For some of us this boundary can extend several feet. Huggers have to realize that coming into someone's personal space is downright stressful, so perhaps watch how the individual is viewing your approach and don't just leap right next to another person.

Personal space can vary based on any number of factors. This can include your profession, your life experiences and your physical location. Of course how well you know the person approaching can also affect how comfortable or uncomfortable with that individual getting into your protected territory.

Rule #2 Personal Hygiene

Not to be too obvious, but sometimes there are really good reasons why someone shouldn't be close to someone else. I absolutely detest when someone that has been outside in the hot summer sun suddenly wants to come up and give a hug. Maybe if they would do it with their arms down it might be better, but somehow this never happens.

Although the old sniff test is rarely something huggers seem to use, please do it frequently and drop back to a handshake or a simple "Hi" if you think you don't pass.

Rule #3 The Two Second Rule

In any type of social situation where people are mingling and greeting, it can be very embarrassing to end up with the hugger that is in it for the long haul. If you really must hug, follow a simple two second rule. As soon as your arms wrap around the other person start counting – 1 and 2 –then release and step at least one pace back. Not only does a short but meaningful hug show your affection but it also stops raised eyebrows from other members of the group. In addition the stepping back really helps those of us with personal boundary issues.

Rule #4 Don't Fake People Out With The Handshake Trick

This one is common and may not be a conscious trick on the part of the hugger, but it seems to be used an awful lot. This starts with the hugger, acting like a handshaker, approaching you with his or her hand out. As soon as you make hand contact, they pull you, often very forcibly, into a hug. Now it may be just my impression, but huggers really seem to delight in this devious little trick. If you are going to hug, at least be woman or man enough to put your arms out so the rest of us have time to duck, dodge or prepare. 

Rule #5 Hug Your Family And Loved Ones Often

Just to clear the air, hugging is a great way to show affection and love for your kids, family and dear friends. A hug is a wonderful way to offer support, love, caring and friendship, but it does need to be used with care, especially with people you don't know!

A Really Great Hug Is Worth A Million Words


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