Handshake in a meeting

Do I shake hands or kiss them?


This is possibly one of the most frequently asked questions at our successful communication workshop. That and “how do I stop someone I don’t know kissing me in greeting”!
Here in the UK there is definitely an awkwardness around meeting and greeting!

Probably because we no longer have a commonly recognised norm for how to greet strangers (or someone you have met only a few times). You have to individually assess the person at the point of meeting and make a decision about how they will want to be greeted. Do they look like a handshake or a kiss on the cheek type, or maybe both?

If you shook hands last time do you now know them well enough to move onto a kiss on the cheek … or do they look like they are more of a nod in acknowledgment and keep your distance sort of person?!

And then … if they are the sort who shake hands are they going to give me a limp fish to hold onto or crush every bone in my hand? Or perhaps worse will they want to clasp my hand with both of theirs and should I then clasp back or go for the shoulder?

We make sweeping assumptions about each other on the way we are greeted and yet it is something we rarely get taught.

I have spoken about personal space before and with that in mind our advice is always shake hands from a few feet away  … and then take your cue from them. If they move in a little closer and lean forward they are probably a kiss on the cheek type but if they don’t then I wouldn’t either.

We Brits have a pretty uncomfortable relationship with physical contact at the best of times so I think if you want to make a great first impression don’t force your greeting preference on others and if in doubt go for a single handed firm handshake from a few feet away!  

What do you think? Let me know below.

4 thoughts on “Do I shake hands or kiss them?”

  1. This is one area I always hate and it gets compounded if you kiss someone you know and then someone else is there who I have not quite got so familiar with who then expects a kiss….
    Personally I’m far too British and a hand shake makes me far more comfortable.
    Overall this area is a nightmare

    1. Sally Hindmarch

      So true Paul! I was at an event recently with a client and the speaker came up, hugged and kissed me in greeting … not really a problem as I have known him for three or four years. However my client had never met him and was really uncomfortable that he greeted her in a similar way. Sadly for him she was the decision maker and he wasn’t booked for her next event. This stuff really can be the difference between a sale and no sale (and he is probably completely unaware that there was a sale to be made, let alone that he lost it!)

    1. Sally Hindmarch

      Thanks Sean that’s very funny! I’m pleased to say that I can’t see licking each other becoming acceptable on the networking circuit!!

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