How to Avoid a Hug

This is an excerpt from Patti's new book "SNAP Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" coming out this Fall 

The Hug Dodge

                So, you’re not a hugger and this whole hugging thing makes you a bit uneasy. There are many motivations for dodging a hug and more than one method to do it. It was front-page news in the Irish press with Bono, of the rock group U2 admitted that he dodged a hug from then-President George W. Bush by jumping behind a podium on the stage as the affectionate Bush came near him. Bono said he didn’t feel like being the recipient of a hug from someone he disagreed with on so many things.

                I’m a hugger, so I don’t worry about people hugging me. But I know there have been times when someone didn’t want to hug with me. Not everyone is a hugger. When you hug, you expose the front of your body, opening all of your body windows. It can make some people feel vulnerable. Others feel that hugs are too personal and intimate and even too sexual for everyday interactions in business and with acquaintances. Thankfully, their body language cues will let you know very quickly whether they are huggers.

What if I don’t want a hug?

                Carol, a pharmaceutical sales rep in my sales presentation skills class asked, “What if I don’t want a hug? Some of the physicians I call on immediately give me a hug and I am just not into that.”  This is a frequent question for women in business. The good news, Carol and all, “I am not a hugger” gals and guys, there is a systematic technique to avoid the hug.

                 If you see the potential hugger with both hands and arms raised and chest thrust out in the “hug” position, do the following:

1.      Break eye contact

2.      Step forward on your right foot (This is your “handshaking foot” – the foot that normally moves first for a handshake)

3.      Present only the right side of your body, which effectively closes off your body windows

4.      Extend your right hand for a handshake. (You can choose to make eye contact again at this point)

5.      After touching, step back outside the intimate zone of space to signal you are done, and you don’t want to follow the handshake with a hug. This step also sends the signal that not only is the hug unwanted now, but also unwanted in the future.

If extending the arm and presenting the right side doesn’t stop the hugger, wrap your left arm around the person’s shoulder. This way it becomes a side-to-side hug rather than a frontal hug. You can also pat their back or shoulder to insure you indicate you don’t want a sexual interaction.

The hug dodge does two things:

1.      It signals in those important milliseconds that you are initiating a handshake interaction.

2.      It closes and protects the windows of your body

Macey, a drop-dead gorgeous client of mine came in for a coaching session after receiving the hug dodge training in our previous session. She said, “I feel so empowered. Yesterday I was at a meeting. My boss’s boss, who goes in for the really uncomfortable, feel you up kind of hug approached me with his arms out at the meeting last week. I was able to use the hug dodge to change it to a much more comfortable handshake. I realized at once how powerless and uncomfortable I typically feel when I have had to interact with him after one of his inappropriately sexual hugs.”  

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at