Doesn't it seem that more and more people are greeting each other with hugs these days?  I think hugging is a nice way to reconnect with someone you haven't seen in a while.  It's a nice outward expression of caring for someone.  But it can be awkward .

Lately I've had a few instances of awkwardness.  Going in for a hug, I was surprised by the person who also planned a kiss on the cheek.  He wound up kissing my neck.  Awkward!  Then there was the old friend I was so excited to reunite with, I didn't realize my loud talking while hugging was hurting her ears.  I tend to lean to the left when I hug, which has caused a few head bumps when the other person goes to the right.  And what do you do when someone approaches for a hug but you don't know or like them well enough to embrace?

Here's what I've gleaned from looking at several articles on the topic of social hugging and kissing:

Pick a side:  Be clear whether you're going to approach on the right or the left.  That will signal what direction the other person should go in.

Stay away from the face:  Unless it's a good friend or family member, don't even think about adding a kiss to the greeting.  If you must, consider a Hollywood style "air kiss" but try not to make that smoochy "mwah" sound.

Keep arms up high and visible:  Try to embrace in the upper back/shoulder area.

Do not "bear hug":  No matter how strong you are, it's not good to trap someone in a bear hug when you're in a social setting.  And never lift the person off the ground.

Be quick: Etiquette experts say 3 seconds is a good comfortable length of time for a social embrace.

I heard that 22% of the population does not like to be hugged at all, so it's a good idea to ask, "May I give you a hug?" if you're unsure how the person feels.

Most of my women friends are huggers and I'm glad about that.  But thanks to the popularity of shows like "Entourage," more guys are "hugging it out" and doing some form of the "bro hug."

When you're at a party in Ocean County, do you greet your friends with a hug and/or kiss? What's your biggest pet peeve about public affection in social settings?



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