Hugging Etiquette

Here’s the hard truth. Hugging is awkward. I mean, momentarily linking two bodies by the arms doesn’t always end up the way you imagine it. Where should you put your face? How much pressure should you apply? How long is an appropriate hug? Is patting on the back acceptable?

Any way you wrap it, hugs are hard. So, I wrote you a guide on different hugs and the scenarios that they can be used in.

The Side Hug

Side hugs are the best way to say, “Hey, you. I want to express our friendship, but I’m not totally comfortable with a full hug, so I’m going to awkwardly snake my arm around you and bump hips.” They are very popular with youth groups, especially between the genders. If you aren’t totally comfortable giving that bro/gal a hug, even if it’s an arm-flapper, the side hug is your best bet.

The best thing about the side hug is that the intent can’t be mistaken. There’s no way to really change a side hug. It means what it means. It feels how it feels. It looks how it looks. If you choose a side hug, you don’t have to worry about anything. (Except possibly breaking a heart if the person who initiated the hug wasn’t going for that.)

To Be Used For: friends of friends; acquaintances; awkward situations

To Be Used By: anyone

The Arm-Flapper

This is a common girl hug. In the movies, it’s usually accompanied by exaggerated cheek kisses and the “mwah” sound effect. This is a nice alternative to the side hug if you’re comfortable with the person you’re hugging, but you don’t really want to…touch them. Essentially, you just flap your arms around them briefly, to the point that it almost isn’t a hug. (It could be the next new dance craze.)

The arm-flapper offers little contact. However, it is difficult to determine on sight. Girls give arm-flapper hugs in all types of attire, and at any time or event. If the person who initiated the hug is arm flapping, try to be courteous and hug them in the same manner. It is reassuring to note, however, that most girls hug the same way, regardless of who they are hugging (except for special exceptions, such as best friends; but if you’re her best friend, you know how you two hug).

To Be Used For: friends of friends; friends; gross boys

To Be Used By: girls, mostly

The Bro Hug

This is the standard boy hug. When a man hugs another man, there is excessive patting on the back. This is what makes the hug a bro hug. There is plenty of contact, to the point that they can sometimes lift each other. Regardless, the bro hug is a very friendly hug (as the word “bro” would suggest). Its intent is to communicate friendship and brotherhood.

If you’re a dude going up to greet another dude and he moves in for a hug, don’t worry! There will be patented bro hug patting, guaranteed. However, guys do not normally hug girls and pat them. (Unless the girl is crying and he does not have any sense of how to comfort her, so he begins to pat her back in a desperate effort to make the tears stop.)

To Be Used For: bros

To Be Used By: bros

The Hug

For lack of a better word, the hug is…well…a hug. It has a normal amount of pressure, goes on for a normal amount of time, and communicates the normal meaning of a hug: you matter. There’s no extra theatrics or fireworks. It’s a pretty basic hug.

However, do not be fooled by its apparent simplicity. The hug has a million variables, despite its average predictability, and these variables lead to questions and mistakes. A common blunder is which direction your head should go. In a hug, your face is situated at a place where you can see the back of their head. But do you go left or right? Left or right? Left or right?! It can sometimes be a paralyzing question, but it’s best to just pick a side and go with it. If the person you’re hugging realizes your faces are about to meet, they’ll quickly adjust with a “deer in headlights” look in their eye.

To Be Used For: friends; family reunions; sentimental graduations

To Be Used By: anyone, provided they can figure out where to put their face

The Tackle

This is another common girl hug, reserved for special occasions. It is very similar to the hug, except it exceeds the normality of the hug. The tackle offers more pressure, lasts longer, and sometimes knocks the wind out of you. Depending on the relative sizes of those engaged in the tackle, it is almost the equivalent of getting sacked. (But a happy sacked, like, “I’m so happy to see you, I hope you didn’t need that oxygen in your lungs” kind of way.)

The unfortunate thing about the tackle is that it usually happens to you, instead of being a mutual understanding between two parties that they are going to engage in physical contact. One moment, everything is normal, and the next–you’ve been tackled. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of your attacker out of your peripheral vision. Even if the tackle leaves you gasping, it is a sure way to gauge that your friend is really glad to see you.

To Be Used For: best friends; long-awaited homecomings; scaring the life out of people

To Be Used By: anyone with proper caution

The Squeeze

This hug means the same thing as squeezing someone’s hand: you love ’em. It’s just a way of communicating a little extra love. Unfortunately, some people do not like to be squeezed. For people who use arm-flapping as their standard hug, the squeeze is rather jolting, despite its good intentions.

Logic would dictate that if the one who initiated the hug is squeezing, that the one being hugged should squeeze back. However, logic fails to include the awkwardness of hugs. This is why, despite who initiates the hug, it should always fall back to the least degree of contact. Hugs are awkward to begin with. There’s no need to force someone to have more contact with you than they’d prefer.

To Be Used For: crying children, yours or otherwise; best friends; emotional moments

To Be Used By: friends; Romans; countrymen

 

I hope this guide was informative and helpful. Did I forget any basic hug types? What kind of hugger are you? Do you have any awkward hug stories? Because I sure do!

(Once, I saw a pair of siblings at Robotics for the first time in a week. I shouted the sister’s name excitedly and wrapped her up in a “the hug”. Her brother then moved in for the same treatment, and I quickly slid to his side to “the side hug” him. Shut down.)

(Another time, I was advertising for a Robotics car wash along the side of the road. A classmate I hadn’t seen in years happened to be in town that day and came to see me after recognizing me along the road. He tried to hug me. I quietly freaked out and shut that down, as well.)

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