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How to Navigate Post-Covid In-Person Business Greetings

Some people are huggers; some people are not. How do you navigate business greetings in a post-Covid world when the social rules are not clear?

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I've seen many social posts with people extolling how they're excited to start having regular meetings again. Many of them add, "I'm a hugger and I can't wait to hug again."

This got me thinking: Is there a right way to great someone? 

There are many people, like me, who are not "huggers." We're just fine with a fist bump, high five, or a simple bow of appreciation and a smile.

I had a recent discussion with over 50 business owners, and here's what I learned. 

Related: 7 Tips for Stress-Free Networking

Three types of "new" greetings

Pre-covid, a pretty standard greeting was a handshake, especially in a business context among relative strangers. Some combined a gentle hug with an "air kiss."

Now that we're in a post-Covid world and all much more aware of germs, there are several nuanced ways to greet someone:

  • A big smile and nod of the head.
  • A big smile, a nod of the head, and clasping two hands together as many of my friends do who are from India.
  • Fist bumps seemed to be the dominant way of greeting at the height of Covid.

How do you make your preferred greeting known? 

I'm not a hugger and really prefer a fist bump. It's just easier, for a variety of reasons.

To be clear on how you wish to be greeted, you must initiate first.

I initiate a fist bump several steps before I'm in range to even touch someone. I make the first move to show the person my "fist of greeting."

Often times, this serves as an accepted signal to him or her that I wish to greet with a fist bump.

In a few instances, although I've initiated a "fist bump," some people either have not seen my fist or choose to ignore it and extend their hand to shake my hand.

In these scenarios, a fast game of "chicken" ensues.

If I stand my ground, often times the other person will get the message and relent, giving me a fist bump.

Or, I just put my hand down, and there's no hand greeting exchange. 

At times, I relent and give the person the greeting he or she wants.

Related: 12 Passive Aggressive Phrases that Can Destroy Your Business

How not to offend someone

There have been a few times when I really didn't want to shake someone's hand or hug him or her, but I didn't want to offend the person. Here's what's worked for me.

I find a big smile, firm verbal greeting and clasping my hands together gives most people a clear signal that I really don't wish to hug them or even shake their hands.

Most people will understand.

Related: 5 Techniques to Fully Develop Your Team Spirit

Your comfort and safety come first

Although it is a delicate dance, your safety and comfort do come first. Sure, you don't want to anger a long-lasting client or offend a coworker or team member. But you also don't want to put yourself last and go to work feeling uncomfortable.

Clear communication is also helpful.

Explain to people, especially those with whom you'll be working with, how you prefer to greet them. Most reasonable people will fully understand.

Ramon Ray

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Ramon Ray is a best-selling author, entrepreneur, keynote speaking and lover of all things small business. He has started four companies and sold two companies. He is the founder of SmartHustle.com and entrepreneur in residence at Oracle NetSuite.