Kiss vs the handshake: the golden rule of business greetings
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Everyone judges a person by the quality of their handshake – a bone-crusher or a limp fish are big turnoffs. But what is the business etiquette around planting a kiss on the cheek? Does the sex of the person, the number of times you’ve met or the location play a part?
Nina Sunday, the managing director of corporate trainer Brainpower Training, says greeters must judge different moments accordingly, and use their intuition and understanding of diplomacy and tact.
She says in the past a man would not extend his hand to a woman for a handshake unless the woman had put her hand out first. While this rule has been relaxed, kissing is a different matter.
“A man should always wait for a woman to initiate a kiss on the cheek otherwise he is moving right into her personal space,” Sunday says. “A kiss on the cheek is never appropriate on the first meeting and I would have thought it is questionable the second time around as well. You would only kiss when you have had a number of interactions through work with that person and you feel an affection or professional intimacy towards them.”
In the hair and make-up world air kisses are popular. However, the approach is unwelcome in sectors like construction and mining.
Apart from industry and cultural differences, the location of the meet and greet has an impact too. Sunday says business colleagues or clients are put in a different context when catching up outside the office, whether at a work function or the opening of an art exhibition. No matter what the circumstances, she recommends a golden rule.
“It’s always safer to be conservative – if you step over the line it may lead to embarrassment,” she says. “And you only kiss someone on the cheek if you actually like them. If you’re in a social situation with a male colleague and his wife, it wouldn’t be tactful to kiss the man on the cheek as that might create a question mark with the wife.”
So what happens when a man you are introduced to for the first time at work leans in to give you a kiss? Should you go through with it or recoil and offer your hand?
Sunday says: “It’s a bit like if someone passes wind in public, you ignore it and keep a poker face. You don’t want to make that person embarrassed or uncomfortable. As the saying goes, ‘to take offence is to give offence’.”