Monday, September 28, 2015

Would You Like a Hug?

It seems lately like I'm surrounded by the discussion of hugs, both giving and getting them.  An author friend on facebook discussed whether or not hugging strangers at writing conferences was weird, and at church we laughed together as another friend hugged me and my sister-in-law, but excluded my brother-in-law.  I realized that even though this brother-in-law is a friend and like a blood sibling to me, I don't think I've ever hugged him.  Maybe at his wedding?

When to give hugs and how to give them can be complicated.  Sometimes we're in the awkward position of getting a hug we don't want, or aren't comfortable with.  I'm generally the type to pass them out fairly freely, but I'll admit there's been times when I realized halfway into the hug that maybe it wasn't such a great idea.  And then there was the first time a guy I didn't know well did the European air kiss thing, to the sides of my cheeks.  I wasn't expecting it, and probably looked like he'd leaned in and checked my nose for loose hairs!

If you're one who prefers personal space, here are a few tips for avoiding unwanted hugs:
  • Watch your arm movements.  If you approach a group with your arms up and waving excitedly, it can look like you're opening them up big for a hug.
  • As you and the person approach, extend both hands but keep them close together.  With your elbows tucked in to your sides, reach for their hand, and give it a warm shake or pat.  This will help you seem welcoming and make clear you're happy to see them, but avoid the hug.
  • This can also be adapted to situations where you're standing still and someone approaches but is getting in your personal space.  You extend your hand to shake hands with them, then once the hands are clasped you keep your arm extended and stiff while stepping back.  This gives you the space you're looking for by literally keeping them at arm's length.
  • If they surprise you with the hug you can still turn it into the 'half hug' of an arm around the shoulder by pivoting as they step in, perhaps to introduce a friend, or point out something around you.  Potentially awkward, but perhaps less so than the un-welcomed hug.
  • Similarly, as a friend is approaching and obviously going for a hug, you can extend your arm to welcome them in a half hug while opening your other arm to extend to another friend.  This makes for a looser group hug and once again creates a bit of distance.
It would be nice if we all came with 'hug radar' and could tell when someone wanted a hug, and they could see the same in us!  What's your preference?  When you see a friend after a week or two's absence, or run into an old critique partner at a conference, do you go in for the hug?  And do you have any tactics you've learned for when to give them, or how to avoid them when you don't want them?  I'd love to hear them!  In fact...I'd probably give you a hug. ;)

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