We’ve all been there. You’re meeting someone you haven’t seen in a while, or an acquaintance you’ve met once or twice before. With a smile and a hello, you open your arms and lean in for the hug, only to feel the ends of their fingers prodding you in the abdomen in an attempted handshake. The result: a quarter turned, half-hug, half-handshake, entirely awkward hello. It happens to the best of us!  That’s just the way it is.  But here are 3 tips to help you avoid this issue, and walk away from every hello confident you made a good first impression:

Read the other person

When engaging in conversation, whether with a friend you’ve known forever, or with someone entirely new, take a brief moment to observe how they approach the interaction.  More often than not, a person will advertise their preferred method of greeting through a lean of the body toward a hug, the rise of an arm in anticipation of a handshake, or even the nod of the head.  The absolute most effective means of ensuring your greeting is taken in stride is to meet the recipient on their grounds, where they are comfortable.  Doing so not only avoids an impending sense of insecurity, but sets a tone for the conversation to come: that you see them, you hear them, and you are invested in them as an individual.

Be flexible

Do not, I repeat DO NOT, make people hug you.  To enter into any interaction with the line, “I’m a hugger,” and forcing someone into an embrace may come from a good place, but it sends a mixed message.  First and foremost, perhaps the recipient is not a hugger.  Insisting that the greeting be a hug implies “my comfort is more important than your comfort.  This is the way I do things, so this is the way you will do things.”

I am entirely for pushing your boundaries of comfort when it comes to interactions, and frankly, I’m probably a hugger, but forcing someone to meet you on your level rather than allowing them to get their naturally is counterproductive.

Instead, be flexible.  Be willing to bend your own preferences, and acknowledge the comfort level of those you interact with.  Moreover, should your hug turn into the quarter turn half hug/handshake, roll with it.  Smile, laugh it off, and be genuine in whatever greeting you find yourself engaged in.

This leads us to our final tip:

Be kind to yourself

Mistakes happen.  We grab fingers in handshakes, we snort when we laugh, hug people trying to give us handshakes and vice versa.  When it happens, let it go.  Smile, laugh, but don’t draw too much attention and certainly do not dwell on what went wrong.  Instead, make what you have to say next engaging: ask about their day, their job, their family.  Let your second impression take the place of the first, and forgive yourself for the misstep.

Human interaction is simply not easy for everyone.  If it were, there wouldn’t a distinction between the introverts and the extroverts.  But hopefully, with the guidelines listed here, your next hello will feel a little easier, a little more genuine, and a little more fun.

how to make a good first impression - communication tips

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