OMG! I’ve Become A Hugger!

I’m a fan of a handshake.

A good handshake – with a firm hold (not too wimpy, not too robust) and gentle up and down movement (not like you’re cracking a whip) – can say a lot about a person. A bad handshake can sometimes say even more.

When I wrote my book, Personal Branding For Brits, back in 2013, I included a whole chapter on how to shake hands, with a list of dos and don’ts.

I also included a bit about hugs and air-kisses, which had been – and continue to be – steadily creeping into business interactions. They’re something I’ve never fully got my head around, as there don’t seem to be any firm and fast rules about when to hug/kiss and when not to – nor how to go about it without embarrassing yourself.

At the time, I said I wasn’t a fan of a hug.

I think my exact phrase was ‘If I wanted to get groped, I’d have taken the Tube’. But I recently noticed – much to my surprise – I’ve become a hugger (and occasional air-kisser) myself. I’m not sure how it happened. Maybe I just became the recipient of more and more hugs and decided to go with the flow.

I’m not hugging everyone I meet of course (that’d be weird). But I am doing it with an increasing number of contacts, both male and female.

Even where I’ve only met someone a handful of times, if I feel like we’ve hit it off, I’m now more inclined to approach them with open arms than I am to offer my hand for a shake. (Though I’m still not really one for the puckering up bit.)

That’s got me thinking though:

What if these people I’m hugging feel the same way I used to?

I’ve made the assumption they’re happy to be hugged, but what if they’re just not comfortable with it?

So I’m using this post to gauge how acceptable people feel hugging and air kissing is in business today. Even if you’ve never posted a comment on a blog post before, I’d love it if you’d let me know your thoughts below.

Simply type the letter that corresponds with your view. And if you’d like to tell me more, feel free to expand on it:

A – You feel strongly that hugging/air-kissing should be avoided at all costs

B – You feel OK accepting a hug from someone else, but would never instigate it yourself

C – You feel perfectly comfortable accepting a hug from someone else, and will instigate a hug if you know the person well

D – You like hugging (and maybe the accompanying air-kissing) and are always the one to instigate it

Like this? Share it or join in the discussion…

32 responses to “OMG! I’ve Become A Hugger!”

  1. Colin Smith says:

    Aha Jennifer, interesting.

    Well, it depends, like you I take into consideration the person and the environment.

    Typically though I would say C, although I like hugging, so D too. Sort of 70/30 towards C

    Great exercise and glad you have started hugging too.

    Take care


  2. Annabel Sweet says:


  3. Peter Lynagh says:


    Hugging is part and parcel of my life but only with people I know and will include a kiss on each cheek with my female contacts as you know Jennifer
    Best wishes


  4. Deborah Ratcliffe says:


  5. Meg Burton says:

    C – for me personally Jennifer. Handshake is definitely a first course of action (yet many people still look incredibly uncomfortable with this) until a relationship has developed but for me it can feel weirdly formal once a relationship has grown? (not really sure why?) I would never intend to make someone else feel uncomfortable though so I try to look for natural cues as to what the other person’s action will be but it often feels natural and instinctive in some relationships where trust and understanding has developed.

    This question comes up a lot from my clients – to hug or not to hug, at what point has a business relationship grown so this is okay? From these discussions male to male it seems handshakes and the occasional pat on the arm works well, women – women seems to go from handshake to hug after a undefined period of time when both parties feel comfortable with each other. Interestingly men – women, and women to men more seem to find reading this more difficult and maybe in light of recent events people will be even more worried about inadvertently offending someone so hold back to the safety of the formal handshake?!

  6. Denis Kaye says:

    C for me Jennifer so we’ll hug when we next meet! I must say I’m happiest with a handshake for business meetings and perhaps even more so given the current media storm around abusive behaviour. However with friends and family I much prefer a hug, especially a one-armed hug (less likely to be misunderstood?) and it is equally acceptable to men and women. Air kissing seems so pretentious and, frankly, embarrassing to me (I hate New Year’s Eve!).

    PS I’m writing this from France where I have to subjugate my dislike of air kissing

  7. Frank Clayton says:

    Definitely C…and you’re not surprised are you?

  8. Paul Williams says:


    Hi Jennifer, I am definitely a C and maybe even a D. I have lived and worked in Continental Europe where this is much more prevalent so perhaps I have been conditioned to it?

    It is open to manipulation though, particularly when the encounter is not 1 to 1, such as multi-party projects and negotiations where someone is seeking to use the relationship for advantage. In these situations I always try to revert to handshakes all round.

    Great topic, thanks for raising it.
    Best wishes

  9. Nikki says:

    I’m a C but ask permision first. I’ll usually say something like ‘Are we on hugging terms yet?’ if I’m getting vibes we are on the same wave length.
    As someone who works in a team of remote extroverts we get very huggy, in fact I was hugged on my second interview. I was totally fine with it and in fact took it as an excellent sign!

  10. Kate Wood says:

    B. I’ve got a reputation for preserving my personal space and I just don’t like people pressing up against my face or body unless I know them really, really well. I make a little joke out of it if everyone else is doing the air-kiss/embrace thing and my business partner (definitely a hugger) takes the mickey a bit, but I generally think a handshake is as good as a hug. Unless it’s going to really affect a critical client relationship, in which case, I’ll suck it up.

  11. Kate Farrow says:

    I’m a C

    When I first started where I am now, I was definitely an A, but I have grown… 😉

  12. Catherine says:

    Oooh I don’t know Jennifer, somewhere between A and B for me. I only hug close friends and family, outside of that I feel very uncomfortable about being hugged – which “huggers” don’t always think about.

  13. Lorna Hudson says:

    C and sometimes D

  14. Jan Rilatt says:

    Definitely C & D for me depending on how well I know the person or have a ‘gut’ feeling it’s o.k. However,as has already been mentioned, in the light of recent news, it can be misconstrued which is a shame as we know that hugging releases ‘good’ feelings when it’s reciprocal. I’ve been asked if it’s o.k to have a hug and as I’m a big hugger in my personal life, it can become an auto response!

  15. Krishna Anand says:

    C for me too

  16. Fiona Munro says:

    Definately C for me- in fact definitely prefer a hug than to go for the awkward air kiss decision- is it 1 or 2 kisses or even sometimes 3??

  17. Jeff Clarke says:

    Hi Jen,
    I’m a basically B with a degree of sympathy for C. I think that for normal – whatever normal is – well balanced people, hugging is fine. For a politician, however, you may be laying your reputation, if you have one, on the line or needing the services of a solicitor some years afterwards. Fortunately most of us are still not paranoid so – keep on hugging!

  18. Stephanie says:

    B to C although tending more toward the C myself these days. Have to say that I prefer it when the hug and air kiss remains just that and doesn’t include a grope as well…okay so that only happened once…so far….maybe that person has reached the next stage beyond….?

  19. Vanessa says:


    With colleagues I know well.

  20. Charlene Costello says:


  21. Jennifer Holloway says:

    It’s looking like hugging is starting to become more accepted, so that’s good to know in light of my change of attitude. Those are some good points about the whole ‘when’s it considered groping’ angle in light of current affairs.

  22. Jacqui Bateson says:

    I am definitely a C with some people and I go with my gut feel about whether it would be appropriate or not. For a first time hug, I have sometimes asked them first and have never had a ‘no’.
    I wouldn’t hug on first meeting with someone, but after that I would go with what feels right.

  23. Barrie Hopson says:

    I seem to recall that the odd time that we do meet up we always hug and kiss – and that must have been at least 2 years ago so maybe there has always been a little hugger in there! XX

  24. Kathryn says:

    C…having previously been an A. I’m learning to embrace it and sometimes even initiate it. I have learnt that there’s something quite lovely about a really genuinely hug!

  25. Peter O'Leary says:

    Just an A.. don’t even hug my wife.. 😉

  26. Marsha Miles says:

    C – You feel perfectly comfortable accepting a hug from someone else, and will instigate a hug if you know the person well

    All my team hug when we meet first thing I think it is a good start to the day, did you know there is a positive impact on yours and other mental wellbeing from a hug! Which we need now more than ever!

  27. Jim McManus says:

    Hi Jennifer

    Definitely a B but even then apprehension is still prevalent


  28. Anna says:

    I am not a hugger but can usually fumble my way through if someone else goes for it. Air kisses though I always manage to stuff up. All in all it makes for a very awkward interaction, let me stick to my firm handshake!

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