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The Art of Avoiding Hugs

The current hugging phenomenon annoys me to no end. I am not a hugger and yet I have to field off hugs from well intentioned people who want to comfort, express affection, or greet me with full frontal hugs. It seems a little too personal given the actual degree of the relationship. I hug close family, usually sideways, but almost never hug people outside of my family.

And the use of hugs in a professional context is an odd considering that the action is of a personal nature in a non-personal environment of business. I do not need a hug from work colleagues, any service provider or vendor or my boss (assuming I had one). A good, solid handshake will do just fine. Given the recent emphasis on work place sexual harassment, it baffles me that anyone in a work environment would hug anyone. Just don’t.

The video below offers some creative ways to avoid a hug without causing a scene or hurt feelings.

{ 41 comments }
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  • AS February 27, 2018, 4:48 am

    I hate hugs from anyone who’s not a family or a close friend too. In a place where hugging is common gives creeps an excuse to hug (it has happened, during my stay in a South American country; people are usually not creeps, but there was this one fellow who gave me bad vibes, and other women have said the same to me about him). I think that I cringe so visibly (though unintentionally) that people now know not to hug me.

  • Saucygirl February 27, 2018, 6:39 am

    A friend just sent me this video because I am known for not hugging!

    When we moved to where we currently live a few years ago I had to really readjust. People here not only hug, but they kiss everyone too! And then some double kiss, which just adds a whole extra layer of awkwardness. I’m following Lisa Vanderpumps wise advice and wearing a large rimmed hat, so no one can get close to my face.

  • shoegal February 27, 2018, 8:17 am

    I will hug sometimes because “I think” that it conveys that I’m a warm, friendly and welcoming host. I would usually do that at my bonfire when new people came. It was my way of saying “Come on in – you are welcome here!!” To be honest, I could see that it made some people uncomfortable and I now vow not to do it anymore with new people especially teenagers. I will only hug people who I know would welcome it. There is nothing wrong with not being a hugger.

    I do get annoyed however, when in church at the part of the service when you offer peace to the people around you. Some of those people don’t look you in the eye or give a decent hand shake. I actually don’t mind if they nod at me – but look me in the face when you do it – and say “Peace be with you” but to give a soft, limp handshake is so off putting that I don’t feel like offering up those people any peace at all.

    • ErindV February 27, 2018, 9:05 am

      Try not to judge weird handshakers at church too harshly! I almost always give a fingertips only handshake during that portion of the service. The reason is preservation of my hand. Some of the stronger congregants have a habit of giving a *very* hearty handshake and if you have rings on those hearty handshakes feel more like finger crushing handshakes! Plus, a church should be welcoming to everybody – even those who don’t meet your handshake criteria.

    • Anonymous February 27, 2018, 11:20 am

      At my church, we have the option to do the sign of the peace just by holding up a hand or waving, if we don’t want to shake hands. I do the sign of the peace that way because I don’t want to spread germs (which can be a problem in the height of flu season, and even more so because I used to work in a field that required me to touch people), and also because I have a bit of lingering tendonitis in my right wrist from an overuse injury from years ago, and there’s a guy who goes to my church who shakes hands too hard. So, regardless of health status or hand-shaking style, I just don’t shake hands with anyone anymore–that way, nobody’s feelings get hurt, if I’m treating everyone the same.

    • Zhaleh February 27, 2018, 12:02 pm

      Why do they make people do that? Isn’t the fact that you’ve all voluntarily sat down together in a joint cause enough? They should just stop the practice, I’m sur a lot of people find it uncomfortable.

    • Kate 2 February 27, 2018, 12:05 pm

      Could they have arthritis or other painful conditions? Even very young people can have arthritis.

    • JAN February 28, 2018, 11:31 am

      There are many people with health conditions that cause a “hearty” handshake to be painful. Arthritis, fibromyalgia, previous injures, etc.

  • staceyizme February 27, 2018, 8:29 am

    Hugs are hard to navigate, no doubt! But- there’s a simple solution. Ask before you hug! That way, the other person can choose NOT to. It’s not a perfect solution, (any more than asking for a kiss would be, since in a professional context, a request for a kiss would never be appropriate), but it’s a step UP from trying to read body language, claiming ignorance or the excessive privilege that some people arrogate to themselves under the guise of “just being friendly”. Hugs are kind of like cuisine, the context, execution and results are somewhat subjective. If you’re not a “hugger”, extend your hand and do a 1/2 sidestep. Any further encroachment can be met with due force of both voice and vigor. And for Heaven’s Sake, if you ARE a hugger, don’t accost the unwilling, the uncertain, the unwell or those unable to assent!

    • K February 28, 2018, 10:38 am

      Honestly, a body-language request for a hug and acceptance/no-thank-you is really not that difficult to understand, either. Hold your arms apart in the “pre-hug” gesture, make eye contact, smile, and WAIT. Do not move toward the other person. The other person can then choose to 1/ move forward and hug you, at which point you can wrap your arms around them, or 2/ offer a hand for a handshake (or a wave, or whatever their preferred non-physical-contact greeting is).

      The important thing here is that while you can offer a hug, verbally or non-verbally, you need to wait for them to come to you. And if they don’t, don’t be put off by it.

      • staceyizme February 28, 2018, 7:01 pm

        I agree that most people can read body language well. It’s just that some inconsiderate folks will intentionally “miss” the cues that their affection is not welcome. A verbal exchange clears that right up and prevents some (not all, unfortunately) abuse perpetrated by those who compel hugs under the guise of custom, power/ dominance or simple battery.

  • CarolynM February 27, 2018, 8:32 am

    I don’t like being touched by people I am not close to – one day I was being introduced to a colleague from another branch and as I was coming around my desk I extended my arm to shake hands (big smile on my face, yammering something about “welcome to our branch!”), this guy looks at my hand, says “Nawwwww, put that away – I’m a hugger!” and then stretches his arms wide.

    My mouth started moving before my brain had fully engaged – I smiled big and blurted “I’m not!” and continued forward with my arm out to shake hands. He flushed and giggled a little bit, my boss was HIGHLY amused and barely hiding it, but it didn’t become a “thing” because I just kept the getting-to-know-you chatter going “So, how was your drive down?” etc.

    If some stranger came up to me and pressed his body up against mine and squeezed me up against his chest, I would be justified in pushing/shoving him away and feeling violated and shocked. But all of that is magically okay if someone says “Hey, have you met Herbert?” first. Weird.

    • Dee February 27, 2018, 12:09 pm

      CarolynM – Your last paragraph is spot on. The video was darkly amusing to me, because it’s just a variation of self-defense techniques, but with wide and friendly smiles! The idea that we now have these techniques to prevent hug “assault” is sad, really. Hugs should be a gift, not an imposition.

      I love, love hugs from people I adore. For all others, it’s a range from “okay” to “ugh”. I can’t say I’m a non-hugger because I could hug my kids all day. But with people I barely know or like? Yech.

      If only you had a video of that fateful hug-attempt, Carolyn, to view your awesomeness whenever you need it. And if that guy ever tries to force a hug ever again then he’s just hopeless, and doesn’t possess the ability to learn anything new.

      • CarolynM March 1, 2018, 9:34 am

        You are absolutely right about those techniques being self defense techniques – a kind of Nohug-fu!

        The hug dodge would make great video, but the real prize would be video of my boss’ reaction – he was barely a half step away from acting like Kelso from That 70’s Show yelling “BURN!” LOL That particular guy is no longer with the company, but we always got along well and he never went in for another hug – hoping it made him think about interactions with all women he doesn’t already know well, not just me, because he is a sweetheart and genuinely doesn’t want to creep!

    • Bea February 27, 2018, 4:36 pm

      Ewwww! I am a hugger but if someone extends their hand that’s the cue that you dial it back to a handshake. You also do not hug a co-worker that you just met.

      I’ll admit I was overly invested in my last job and I hugged everyone who wasn’t the reason I left when I got to my last day. By going to each person, telling them I enjoyed my time working with them, wrapping up our plans to stay in touch/see each other the following night etc and asked if I could hug them. I knew them and we are friends, yet still no presumptions that I could just grab onto them like some blubbering jerk.

      I come from a family who didn’t hug until my dad’s brush with death. So I’m used to people who don’t like being touched. You never know when someone has bad memories attached to that either, that’s how you get punched or worse if someone has PTSD. Noooooo to unsolicited touching.

      • CarolynM March 1, 2018, 9:47 am

        You make a good point about non-typical reactions to being touched by surprise – you never know! And hugs can be painful for some people – I screwed up my elbow something special a few years ago and getting bumped or jostled had me seeing stars … grabbing me in a bear hug would have had me incoherent from the pain.

        (Sad but true – I initially had to wear a sling, but after a while my doctor said it wasn’t offering the benefit he hoped it would so I didn’t have to wear it any more. While wearing the sling, it was easier to move through the world – people were more careful not to bump me because they could see there was something wrong with me and people were so helpful! Cashiers would bag my groceries and put them into the cart for me, people would race ahead to grab doors or offer to carry things for me. And I was grateful because I needed the help. On my way home from the doctor, first time in months without a sling on, I stopped off at the grocery store … I had to leave the store before I made it out of produce because I had been bumped and run into several times and was starting to tear up from the pain. I mean, it wasn’t like there was a hockey fight near the broccoli or anything, just incidental bumps in a crowded store.

        I called my doctor the next morning and asked if wearing the sling in public would have any ill effects – he said it wouldn’t and after I explained why I wanted to continue wearing it he told me he was changing his mind, that he was INSISTING I wear it in public! LOL)

  • Semperviren February 27, 2018, 9:24 am

    I hate side hugs. They make me feel straight jacketed.

  • Julia February 27, 2018, 9:37 am

    I love a good hug! I wish pretty much everyone I know would hug me whenever they saw me. However, I know others don’t like hugs. The secret as a hugger is to take it slow and make sure the other person totally realizes that you’re coming in for a hug. If they hunch or pull back, however slightly, then you can tell they’re not into it. It’s easy then to make it a warm handshake, or, if you’ve really committed, you can just almost touch a shoulder and give them an air kiss. Then you remember that person doesn’t like hugs.

  • dippy February 27, 2018, 10:02 am

    I am not a hugger, I come from a family of non-huggers. I have a casual friend who is a major hugger. She hugs everyone, everywhere.

    When she hugs me she says, “Oh, you can feel her tense up!”

    THEN DON’T HUG ME !

    • staceyizme February 28, 2018, 7:05 pm

      Yikes! Have you said “DON”T hug me!”? Followed by bracing your arms in front of you, if need be. I think some of us feel a bit uncomfortable “making a fuss”, but women are often socialized to tolerate these actions as normative, and it does us no favors to do so.

  • JD February 27, 2018, 10:20 am

    I went to a church safety awareness class, and the leader stressed long and hard — do NOT hug anyone of the opposite sex, only hug someone of the same sex if you know for sure that person is okay with hugging, and never, ever, hug someone else’s child, even an older child. Several people from the church that was hosting actually turned to one guy and said, “Are you listening, Bob?” He was a big-time hugger, and he kept saying he was just wanting to be friendly. The leader would have none of it.

    The leader gave sobering examples of pedophiles who targeted churches because of the atmosphere of trust and brotherhood, and exploited that to gain access to vulnerable children. They seem exemplary and get everyone to like them. The children get the impression that he or she is great, so when he or she starts giving private attention to a child, at first, the child is flattered by hugs and sitting on a lap…. ugh. For that reason, no matter how small the Sunday School class or gathering, two adults had to be in attendance at all times.

    The vast majority of huggers are not creeps or pedophiles, just people who like hugs. But the aggressive hugging is very uncomfortable to many recipients, and in this time of heightened awareness, just needs to stop.

    • Lara February 28, 2018, 10:00 am

      The YMCA has strict policies about this, and all employees (regardless of whether you’ll be working with children directly) go through training where they learn to 1) Never be alone with a child, 2) Never let a child sit on your lap, give full hugs, etc. Only side hugs and high-fives/fist bumps are allowed. If a child comes up to you to hug you, turn your body and make a side hug. Otherwise, don’t touch children more than required to do your job. And everyone is required to report anyone they see breaking the rules–not because you presume guilt, but because those rules are there to protect everybody, the employee included.

      Churches are a bit different, of course. While I think those who work with children should get similar advice and guidelines to follow, churches are basically a social organization, and there is a lot of friendship, informality, etc. You can’t tell people not to show physical affection to people and kids they’ve had a long, close relationship with. But I think those are excellent guidelines to follow when dealing with other people’s children, and with other adults that you don’t have a close personal relationship with. You protect everyone this way, both from unwelcome touches, and from accusations of touching someone else.

  • sandisadie February 27, 2018, 11:10 am

    I’m a sometime hugger. It just depends on whether it’s family or close friends or not. Several years ago I met for the first time the new husband of a relative. I had hugged and been hugged by other members of the family and when I turned to him he said “so you’re a hugger too?” I stopped short and said “sometimes”. But his tone of voice stopped me from a hug and when I’ve met him since then I’ve made it a point not to give him a hug. He made it sound like hugging was a bad thing, not just that he wasn’t a hugger. He’s a nice person, but I’ve not forgotten that interaction.

  • Princess Buttercup February 27, 2018, 11:14 am

    I’m fairly affectionate and like physical support (pat on the shoulder, arm around someone, etc.) but I still really like this video. I don’t tend to turn down hugs but I also completely get that some really are uncomfortable with touch and that’s fine.

    It reminds me of the video of Seinfeld turning down a hug from Kesha (I think) and people getting upset that he was so awful for not hugging a fan. No, he was not rude. She was a bit forward by not asking but I still wouldn’t call her rude either. He didn’t feel comfortable hugging a strange woman and nicely said no thanks. That’s a good and safe way to handle it. And she should not get upset that he was not comfortable.

  • Skaramouche February 27, 2018, 12:04 pm

    This made me LOL! I am also not a fan of hugging people outside close friends and family; in other words, people I don’t know well. So of course it follows that the fates land me a job in a French company.

    While working out of the North American office there were no issues but I generally travelled to Paris at least once a year and you can only imagine what happened. Everyone (from CEO to developer) coming into the office (it was a smallish office) would walk around doing cheek kiss greetings…especially for the women. My North American male colleagues escaped this sometimes by looking very awkward but I did not. I learned to loosen up real fast, LOL. I even learned to like it.

    For the record, it was not creepy at all and if I had shown true discomfort, they would have left me alone. But I went with the flow and soon it began to feel natural. The head office was in Switzerland (where my boss worked) and you would think it would be better than Paris, greeting-wise, but no! The Swiss do three cheek kisses instead of two 😛

  • ladyv21454 February 27, 2018, 1:59 pm

    I actually AM a hugger. However – what I am NOT is an indiscriminate hugger. If I’m meeting someone for the first time, my hand is extended. (The one exception to that is when I have met people that I have developed a friendly relationship with online – and then it’s usually a mutual thing.) Even with people I know, if I detect ANY sign that a hug would make them uncomfortable, it doesn’t happen.

    Many years ago, I had a close male friend that I normally hugged when I saw him. Then he started dating a woman who was very possessive. When I realized this, I immediately stopped hugging him – even if the GF wasn’t present. Sometimes you have to make the hug/no hug decision on a case-by-case basis!

  • Ginny February 27, 2018, 3:45 pm

    Has anyone seen the video taken during the last presidential debates, where Hillary Clinton is practicing how to avoid having to hug Donald Trump — it is a joking moment, and she is laughing and running away from the guy who is playing the stand-in for D.T.
    https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/05/19/clinton-avoids-trump-hug-llr-orig.cnn

  • CW February 27, 2018, 9:21 pm

    I am a hugger. And I know a lot of huggers so it becomes habit when everyone’s together. I don’t, obviously, hug strangers or people I just meet. And I usually remember which people are not huggers. I have hugged coworkers and clients, but it all depends on who they are and what kind of relationship we have.

    I just started a new job last month and one of my coworkers is a toucher. She’ll touch my hair or my arm or hand randomly, which really didn’t phase me until she said one day, “I’m sorry. I’m a toucher. Which is weird because I don’t like being touched.” So I tucked away the, Don’t Hug B note for future reference.

    • Dee February 28, 2018, 10:26 am

      CW – I’m a toucher too, although I almost never touch others, outside of my kids and husband. But I ache to touch others; their skin, their clothes, hair, etc. If it’s a close friend and he/she’s extolling the virtues of their new sweater then I feel free to give it a rub. I can’t go into stores without touching or wanting to touch all the merchandise, but I actively avoid doing so with breakable things. It made it difficult when my kids were little and I was telling them to keep their hands to themselves, and that’s when my own touching was made known to me, as they were calling me on it.

      It’s how I get my information. How something feels is very important to identify what materials it’s made of; how someone feels tells me how healthy they are, how old they are, their temperature, etc. It isn’t important to anyone but me, and it’s very important to me.

      And I don’t like to be touched. It’s a jarring and shocking feeling, and makes me upset with each sensation. I’m particular about my clothing and can’t sleep nude, because the sheets move with each of my movements, rubbing my skin anew each time, and I can’t sleep. I wear as much as possible at nights and during the day, as long as the temperature allows it.

      So I totally understand your coworker, and I totally would want to slug her if I had to spend time with her. We’d get along great AND hate each other! Or, more likely, we’d just know not to indulge our needs when we’re together …

    • Margaret February 28, 2018, 11:39 am

      I used to not mind being touched by people. Most people touch maybe once or twice in an interaction and that was fine. And then I met “Pat”. If she wasn’t touching your arm or shoulder, she was rubbing it. She was constantly hugging and high-fiving. She would grab both hands just to tell you something trivial. She would poke me in the ribs to get my attention.

      After she did the holding both hands to me, putting her finger in the hand of a premature baby just to touch him, and then was constantly touching the upper front of a teenage girl we both knew, I had had enough. I told her to never stroke, pat, high-five, hug, poke, never, ever touch me again. She said thank you for telling me. And I later told her to stop touching the teenage girl on her front. She said she didn’t realize she was doing it. Riiight.

      Since then, I shrink away from anyone’s touch. It all feels creepy.

      People need to keep their hands to themselves and ask if a hug is OK. I happen to think it’s a power play for some individuals. And some of us don’t want to play.

  • Lady Catford February 27, 2018, 11:48 pm

    The Admin is so right. No hugs, almost always it is not really appropriate.

  • pennywit February 28, 2018, 9:32 am

    Hm.

    In business gatherings, there is almost never hugging, aside co-workers who are very close. And even then, a hug is mostly reserved for somebody who announces something like having a baby or similar.

  • Mustard February 28, 2018, 12:43 pm

    Another non-hugger, from a non-hugging family. When I first met my future father in law, he came towards me and threw his arms out, ready to hug. I stepped backwards…. and fell over the sofa.

  • MrTango February 28, 2018, 3:55 pm

    As someone who really does not appreciate being touched by people who are not very close friends, I’d be horrified if my co-workers started hugging me.

    The video shows some great ways to deflect a hug while keeping the interaction positive. If I’d used those moves a couple times on someone and they persisted in trying to hug me, I’d probably respond with a stiff arm (open palm to the top of the sternum, just barely below the neck. Most people feel extremely uncomfortable with someone’s hand being an inch or two away from choking them and will back off very quickly).

    If someone came up behind me and surprised me with a hug, they’d end up on the floor.

  • NostalgicGal February 28, 2018, 9:52 pm

    I did shows where everyone wanted to hug or not hug. I learned some body language for ‘let’s not’ and okay… mostly the lets-not was to hold my hands palms towards me near my shoulders on my body, away from it a little and keep them there. The hugger realizes I might push them away and usually would pause then. The okay was to hold my wrists at shoulder height, hands generally up and palms almost facing each other but outwards. I could easily reach forward then. Don’t know if it will work for you, but it did for me, then.

    One other was to raise a hand near your heart, very close to you and curl the last couple to all four fingers lightly, palm out. Thumb remains up . That one meant No Thanks…

    I tend not to hug and also I don’t like you insisting you have to hang onto me, to touch me continually (lay a hand on my arm, take a hand, or worse take one hand and use your other to rub my captive hand) I have retracted hand or dropped/moved arm and pivoted to politely indicate No and back up if needed.

  • Miss Jagger March 1, 2018, 12:58 pm

    Does anyone remember that Seinfeld episode in which Jerry decides he will not kiss anyone hello anymore and basically gets shunned by everyone in his building? Lol that is definitely me!

  • many bells down March 4, 2018, 12:05 pm

    I was meeting someone in person that I’d only talked to online, and there needs to be some socially acceptable greeting in between “hug” and “handshake”. We’re friends online; a handshake seems silly. We’re not meeting for business. But a hug seems TOO friendly for a first in-person meeting (especially as we’re of different genders).

    Anyway, long story short, he went for the handshake, I went for the hug even though I told myself not to, and it was super awkward. We should like … clasp hands and bump shoulders or something.

  • Harry's Mom March 5, 2018, 4:52 pm

    Gotta say this made me a little sad….

    • Danneht March 11, 2018, 4:12 pm

      me too 🙁

  • Snowy March 16, 2018, 11:19 pm

    I wish that bowing or fist bumps were the norm. Personal space and more hygenic!

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