ROSE-HEDGEMONDSome people call it flirting. Some people call it being friendly and others wonder…well, what is your hidden agenda or motive? Has greeting business colleagues with a handshake become outdated?

There’s an old time saying that goes like this: “Don’t let your good be evil spoken.” Hugging and touching someone, especially in a business setting, can oftentimes be misconstrued and lead to controversy or confusion.

Next time, before you go in for that big affectionate hug, consider the following:

* Remember the three-second rule. Keep hugs short and avoid placing your arm too low around the other person. Longer hugs have a certain connotation and could have negative repercussions if a co-worker’s spouse or significant other is present. Hmm … Hidden agenda or overly friendly?

* Respect another person’s space. You can tell from a person’s body language if they are willing to embrace a hug, or not.

* Ask permission. Unless you know someone very well, it’s best to ask, “May I give you a hug?” When you ask permission, the receiver will feel respected and have an opportunity to respond.

* When in doubt, don’t hug. If you’re not sure if someone likes to hug, play it safe. You’ll stay out of trouble and never go wrong with the good old-fashioned handshake.

* Consider frequency and occasion. A hug and an air kiss may be in order if you haven’t seen a co-worker or client for a period of time, or if you are at a celebration and/or social occasion. A hug is not necessary if you see someone on a regular basis…unless of course, you have a hidden agenda, or ulterior motive.

Rose Hedgemond is CEO of Avenues of Excellence and an etiquette and social protocol professional. Do you have an etiquette or social protocol question?  Email her at or follow her on Facebook at Rose Hedgemond and Twitter @AOE_IN.