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Story

Make the most of those first few moments when you meet someone

11/10/2009

Get Your Greeting Right For Social Success!

Here's my advice for making the most of those first few moments.

 

It's normal to feel nervous when entering a social situation, whether it's a job interview, a routine meeting with your boss, or meeting your partner’s parents. Part of such nerves is about the etiquette of how you meet and greet someone.

 

What do you do with your hands - to shake or not to shake? Do you give them a kiss? Who takes the lead in making the first move? And so on. A recent survey found that an eighth of people promptly forgot the name of the person they’d just met due to nerves. And a full 20% of people clashed faces when proffering a nervous greeting-kiss.

 

Deep down we know the greeting is important because first impressions count for so much. If in those moments you establish a comfortable atmosphere it makes the interaction go much more smoothly.

 

Here's a guide through the minefield of “meeting and greeting” in key situations.

 

The Job Interview -

Want to make the best first impression? The absolute rule at an interview is to let the person of "higher social status" determine what form the greeting takes. By higher social status I don't mean in some snobby sense but that those with higher social status are the ones calling the shots. In this case, the one who holds your fate in their hands, i.e., whether you get the job!

 

Be aware as you enter whether they move to offer their hand. If they go to offer it give a firm, confident handshake. No limp handshakes from you! Be prepared that if they don't offer their hand that you haven't already gone to offer yours - that’ll make you feel a little foolish.

 

Next give them a moment to seat them self and then take your seat unless they specifically offer you a chair first. Now you've got the greeting out of the way, get stuck into impressing them.

 

A Meeting With Your Boss/Manager -
You might think the first rule of going into a meeting with your boss is letting them set the pace as they have higher social status. But depending on the work environment this may or may not be true. For example, in a very structured work environment that has a distinct pecking order you should adhere to this rule. However, in a more flexible environment and particularly if you have a good relationship with your boss, demonstrate confidence by taking control of the initial greeting.

 

As you walk in set a tone of mutual regard by either offering your hand or simply opening your hands in a gesture of relaxed confidence. The second rule is to let them make the next move of either offering you a chair, or patting you on the shoulder in welcome, etc.

 

Meeting Your Partner's Parents -

Always treat your partner's parents from the first meeting - and throughout your relationship - as you would those of higher social status. The golden rule is to let them always make the first move in a greeting. This is critical because, for example, your family may be physically affectionate and always greet each other with kisses and hugs. Your partner's family may not and after the first few meetings - when you're feeling confident with them - if you lunge at them with an affectionate hug they might find it over-the-top. So it's their-way or no-way with the greeting for long-term success.

 

First Dates -

Here you have the freedom to set the tone in the way you see fit. You both have equal social status. This applies whether or not, for example, one of you did the asking out or if you met through an Internet dating site and it was a mutual arrangement to meet up.

 

It's important to be yourself, but your best “social self". If you’re quite affectionate the rule to follow is to give a semi-affectionate greeting just in case they’re a non-affectionate person. Either go to shake their hand warmly or lean in for a single kiss to one cheek. These two alternatives are preferable to nervously clutching your handbag to your side in fear of making any physical contact. Your date will feel welcome without it being “too much”. No double kisses on both cheeks yet, though, as you’d give your friends unless they specifically do that.

 

Social Events -

You may have to attend a range of social events from the work-related to purely social. Let this element of the event - work or social - guide you and shape the primary rule to apply. For example, entering a work-related conference the first person you meet is the keynote speaker. They might be considered a "colleague" but of higher status depending on the circumstances. Follow the guidance as per bosses above.

 

At a purely social event like a wedding you'll come across people where some are of a higher social status (e.g., the bride's parents) or some are the same social status (the bride, your friend). A good rule of thumb is to treat the person of higher social status as you would your partner's parents.

 

Finally, if you happen to be the higher status person always give clear signals of what sort of greeting you expect by offering your hand, standing still (signalling no physical contact), or moving to kiss them.

 

Published in The Express Newspaper