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Nancy Pelosi Just Gave Joe Biden (and Every Man) Very Good Advice About Greeting Female Colleagues

Skip the hug and get to the small talk.

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As a 54-year-old male in business I've been struggling with a growing problem over the past few years: how do I greet a female work colleague?

Alex Edelman | Getty Images

I don't mean someone I see every day. I mean the many women who I’ve worked with over the years and see only periodically. Some of them have become good friends because I’ve known them for a long time. Others I haven’t known as long but I've certainly worked closely with them on projects. So what do I do when we re-connect at a meeting or a conference or see each other at a coffee shop?

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I've been growing less and less assured of myself when it's time to greet them. Is it OK to give a hug, like I've done in the past? A kiss on the cheek? This kind of behavior never seemed a big problem before, but it definitely seems to be today. The rules of conduct have changed.

Of course, this isn't an issue with guys I know. We mostly shake hands. If it's a very close friend and someone I haven't seen for a while sometimes we'll give each other a man-hug.

But with women, and particularly in these days of #Metoo, I'm way more halting in my greetings -- to the point where it all seems very awkward. I used to sometimes hug or even give a kiss on the cheek to a female sales rep or marketing manager the few times I would see her over the years, but now...? The thought of it makes me cringe. It's creepy. But then again, if I greeted her that way in the past, but don't do the same now, am I insulting her? It's confusing.

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So thank goodness for Nancy Pelosi. After all my struggles to figure out what to do and how to behave in this new world, she gave me the best advice I could ever ask for. Actually, the advice wasn't given to me directly. It was given to Joe Biden.

"Joe," she told him. "Just pretend that you have a cold."

Biden, as most of us know, is an old-school guy. A huggy, kissy, touchy-feely guy. Too much so, particularly in this day and age. So getting admonished in the media after a recent spate of accusations against him for allegedly touching and/or kissing certain women inappropriately, Biden finally got the guidance he and other men his age (and mine) needed from his former congressional colleague, Pelosi.

Just pretend that you have a cold.

It's actually genius. I've been fighting a bad cold this week and just yesterday, out of coincidence, I had the chance to meet a woman whom I've known for years at a conference and hadn't seen in a while. Back in the day, we would hug after such a long absence. But because of my cold I didn't even shake her hand. And you know what? No muss, no fuss. She was fine. I was fine. We caught up on news and had a great time seeing one another.

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Some may say that it's a shame that things have come to this, where men and women in a professional environment just can't touch at all. I disagree. Whether you're running for President (supposedly) or just running a business, the best approach with any female colleague, regardless of your relationship, is a hands off approach. If she goes for the hug or a kiss, then that's up to her.

But as for me...well...I've got a cold.

Gene Marks

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Gene Marks is a CPA and owner of The Marks Group PC, a ten-person technology and financial consulting firm located near Philadelphia founded in 1994.