Not a "Hugger"
I recently had a great networking meeting with a woman I met through another networking friend of mine. The conversation was fun and engaging, we had an easy rapport, we shared similar interests and ideas in business, and there were many similarities in how we were building our businesses, both in successes and failures. She was enthusiastic and positive, and as we wrapped up the meeting, I said “This was a fun conversation!” and went in for a hug. . . . and the wheels came off. She immediately stiffened. “Oh, I’m not a ‘hugger,” she said. It was awkward, and a productive meeting ended on a low note. I read the situation wrong, and the rapport that was built took a hit.
The lesson I learned was simple; err on the side of not hugging! Let the person across the table hug first. To be fair, I had just come from another meeting with a very similar energy level, and the woman came in for a hug at the end, so I was in a hugging mentality (and I am definitely in the “hugger” category), but I know better. A handshake is always a safe bet.
This is not just about hugging; this is about building overall rapport and establishing connections with others (huggers and non-huggers alike). There are tools that you can use to read people and accelerate that rapport-building process. I am a big proponent of the DISC behavioral profiles, which help with interpreting a person’s communication and behavior style. People like to be communicated to the way they naturally communicate— easy conversations happen when people’s “styles” match up— or when you can read and match that style. When meeting someone who is more direct and to the point (likely a High D for Dominance), match that intensity. Stay focused, move the meeting along, and get to the point. If the person is energetic, enthusiastic and outgoing (fitting the profile of a High I for Influence), keep the energy up, make the meeting fun and personal, allow for some time for stories. Someone who is a bit more reserved, and not as emotional or intense (a High S for Steadiness) wants a calmer conversation. Keep it soft-spoken and ask more questions to get them to share their opinions. If your meeting is with a person who is neat and buttoned up and focuses on details (a High C for Compliance), match that level of detail. Stay on task, keep the meeting focused on the purpose of the meeting, and assure that the person’s objectives are met and questions are answered.
When all is said and done, the DISC tips above are simply guidelines. We all have a mix of the four styles, and those mixes manifest themselves differently. Learning more about DISC and practicing reading cues and adapting to them can speed up the process of building connection and rapport, but nothing is a substitute for time— more conversations and more meetings are how relationships are built. And it is certainly no guarantee that the people you think are “huggers” are, or that the people you think are not, aren’t. Just to be safe, err on the side of the handshake. . . . or just ask!