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Seattle etiquette consultant Stephanie Rowland has been featured in several publications and media, including the Tacoma News Tribune, Puget Sound Business Journal, the Business Examiner, North Mason Life, Meeting Professionals International magazine and local newsletters, and the Puget Sound Business Travel Association newsletter, among others. Stephanie has been quoted in a Jean Chatzky article for Travel & Leisure Magazine, as well as The Kiplinger Letter. She has appeared on KOMO TV’s “Northwest Afternoon” and has been featured on News Talk 710 KIRO/97.3 FM’s “Ron & Don Show” as well as on KMPS radio with Ichabod Caine in Seattle.

Stephanie has regular columns in both North Mason Life ( and the Association of Washington School Principals magazine (

Courteous corporate celebrations
By Katherine Luck
Published: Monday, November 30, 2009 10:16 PM PST

Let’s be honest for a moment: Most of us hate the office holiday party.

Maybe it’s an awkward affair in the breakroom, maybe it’s an inconvenient black tie event held on your day off, or maybe all the inter-office gift exchanges are threatening to break your holiday budget.

Local etiquette expert Stephanie Horton of Top Dog Etiquette has heard it all. A Miss Manners of the digital age, she regularly presents her in-house seminar, “Corporate Holiday Party Etiquette,” to companies in need of a politeness polish.

If your workplace is planning a holiday party this year, preserving corporate courtesy often boils down to how you and your coworkers answer a few simple questions. MORE...


She’s the ‘Top Dog’ when it comes to business etiquette
By Rodika Tollefson for Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal
Friday, March 6, 2009

Is it appropriate to give out a business card as soon as you meet someone? Should you drink when you’re being honored with a toast? Who should choose the place for lunch, the invitee or the invited?

If you’re stumped for answers to these questions, don’t worry — Top Dog’s got you covered. Or, more exactly, Stephanie Horton, whose Top Dog Etiquette business ( based in Grapeview (North Mason County) has been coaching people how to do everything from properly using utensils and hosting a meal, to what to do about hugs at the office and what topics are appropriate for small talk in a business setting (hint: personal questions are not a good idea).

“Appropriate conversation is a huge issue,” she says. “We have sensitive issues in our society and people sometimes talk about very personal things. You can’t make assumptions about anything.”

Horton calls herself a “common courtesy coach” but don’t expect to get a slap on the wrist if you confess to poor etiquette. Her nieces and nephews may call her Miss Manners, yet she delivers her knowledge in a down-to-Earth style and she likes to use a light, fun approach — thus the playful name for her business, Top Dog. In fact, one of her best rules follows the old adage, “when in Rome…” She says manners aside, it’s all about making people feel comfortable as well as blending in. (Which means it’s OK to put your prim and proper habits of holding the fork with the left hand while using a knife if you’re, say, in a biker bar.)

“It’s all based on your environment and fitting in wherever you are — sometimes you have to break the rules,” she says. In fact, she calls them guidelines rather than rules for that very reason.

Horton has been teaching etiquette for about 10 years, and has authored two books including “Are Bad Manners Driving Your Clients Crazy?” released last year. Simply put, bad manners are bad for business — and Horton is speaking from experience. In her last position in Corporate America, her job was to choose hotels for Weyerhaeuser’s meeting and travel needs. With previous experience in the hotel industry, she knew what the expectations were for customer service.

“I saw they (the hotels) were losing our business because they didn’t get simple things, and I chose to go with the ones that were more professional,” she says.

This gave her an idea. Being a person who likes public speaking, Horton felt etiquette presentations could answer a need. She started with the focus on the hospitality industry, and soon her first book, “Full House,” was published, and she was being booked for speaking engagements. “I got rolling with that then 9/11 hit and the travel industry suffered,” she says.

So Horton reinvented herself and branched out. By 2005, Horton, who is a certified international etiquette consultant from The Protocol School of Washington, D.C., was coaching personal and business etiquette full-time. Among her topics are “Table Manners Matter! Dining with the Big Dogs,” “Schmoozing with the Big Dogs,” and the popular Charm Farm ™ Executive Etiquette. She has also been teaching event and meeting planning at Highline Community College, and will soon have classes at Olympic College.

With the economy taking a turn for the worse, Horton found her business dramatically decrease for the past year, especially since training expenses are among the first to go when businesses make cuts. So she’s retooled herself once more, and is focusing now on shorter, lower-priced presentations, as well as individual coaching (90-minute individual sessions are priced at $49 while hour long staff meetings at $125).

To weather the economy, Horton has also gone back to working part-time, taking a job at a department store. She says she can’t stop sharing her knowledge about etiquette, so she looked for a flexible job that would allow her to continue her business.

Working in a retail environment, which she hasn’t done before, has been a humbling experience, she says, but also one she can use in her etiquette training. With a vast background in various industries, Horton uses her own experience and pet peeves to talk about manners around the office and in the business world. Often time, she relates to the people she’s presenting to because she’s familiar with the industry first-hand. Her client base is as diverse as Realtors, bankers and lawyers, among many others.

For many presentations, her script is just a page long, but Horton doesn’t have to worry about running out of things to discuss. What she does find is that she has to adjust some of the guidelines with time. For example, she used to tell people nylons and closed-toe footwear is a must, now she tells them to check the company dress code. As our society becomes more casual, some of the etiquette becomes more relaxed as well. Now, she also has to talk about things like texting (which some people do while sitting next to each other in meetings) and email manners.

“Things we do now are different. When I was in high school, you walked down the hall saying hi to everybody, now they hug everybody,” she says.

Which brings us to that topic of hugs. Horton acknowledges that’s a sensitive one in a business setting. The rule for hugs is: Don’t. She says many people don’t like to be touched (often for physical reasons like surgeries they don’t want to talk about), plus hugging in the office changes the dynamics.

“I’m a hugger, but I don’t go hugging the company CEO,” she says.

Proper etiquette may help a person win (or lose) friends or business, but Horton says learning manners should not be intimidating, and most people just need polishing up because they already know many of the guidelines. The bottom line comes to good communication. “You shouldn’t be at a table thinking which fork to use, you should be thinking what you’re going to say,” she says.

“Etiquette is not an affront, it’s a skill,” she adds. “A tiny thing can put people off, so you just need to think of how what you say or do will affect other people. If you can remember that, you’ll answer your own etiquette questions.”
© Wet Apple Media 2009


Etiquette Expert Teaches How to ‘Schmooze with the Big Dogs’
By Jeanette Brown for North Mason Life
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stephanie Horton is a West Coaster who grew up in Tacoma and she has resided in Grapeview since 1997. A local speaker and author of two books on etiquette, Horton is considered one of the region’s premier authorities on etiquette and communication.

Horton has more than a little in common with Peggy Post, an East Coast author who is the great- granddaughter-in-law of Emily Post, and the current spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute. Her first book, the 16th edition of “Emily Post's Etiquette,” was published in May 1997 by HarperCollins.

The new edition marked the 75th anniversary of “etiquette” and its impact on the social order in the United States. Both Post and Horton serve as contemporary experts and “civility barometers” with respect to the topic of etiquette; coincidentally, they both published their first books in the late 1990s.

Horton claims that proper etiquette begins with common courtesy and kindness. “Etiquette is about making people feel comfortable,” she says.

Many profound changes have occurred since 1946 in post-World War II America, when the Emily Post Institute was first established. The 16th edition authored by Peggy Post is a continuation of Emily Post’s original work, which also upholds common courtesy and kindness as the precursor and foremost principle and guiding rule of etiquette, no matter how “high tech” our society becomes.

Horton’s first book, “Full House: Selling Rooms & Space with Style & Grace,” was published in 1998. In the book, she “raises a glass to successful sales — through the power of common courtesy.” One of Horton’s many hints for contemporary college graduates include: “Don’t show up for a job interview with a ring in your nose, belly button or tongue.” This is just part of her classic commentary and contemporary advice that has served to make her a regional expert and “top dog” in the field of etiquette.

With the advent of television, TV dinners, computers, cell phones, the Internet, more women in the workforce and blended families, many changes have taken place in the United States over the past 50 years or so, resulting in new social norms and the need for new social rules to fill in the gaps and guide the ever- changing face of American culture and acceptable behavior. As an expert in national and international etiquette, Horton’s popular seminars have served to help fill in those gaps.

She has traveled all over the country presenting her popular seminars on the art of being polite. Nowadays, with the turndown in the nation’s economy, Horton plans to stick a little closer to home. Like many other entrepreneurs, she has recently experienced the downside effects of a decline in the local economy, resulting in the cancellation of some of her speaking engagements and classes.

However, she is undaunted in her desire to show her fellow Mason County residents and others how to present themselves to their best advantage, which can come in handy in a highly competitive job market during a time when many people are losing their jobs and seeking employment elsewhere.

“Good manners can definitely make the difference in getting called back for a second interview and getting the job,” she says.

Horton’s second book, “Are Bad Manners Driving Your Clients Crazy,” was released in the spring of this year. “Both business and personal relationships alike take attention and dedication, and it all begins with how we treat one another,” she asserts.

Chapter topics include everything from dining manners and the proper way to slurp oysters (of course!) to the art of conversation, cell phone and e-mail etiquette.

Horton has spoken at the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, presenting one of her well-attended Charm Farm Executive Etiquette seminars.

“Stephanie is very interactive in the seminars and I learned a lot about proper dining, in addition to the basics of appropriate business dress and language,” says Fay Marley-Clark, a self-employed photographer. Horton has been invited back to the Port Orchard Chamber, and will give a talk about “Schmoozing with the Big Dogs” at the chamber’s Dec. 11 luncheon and holiday social.

Horton is a certified international etiquette consultant from The Protocol School of Washington, D.C., where she received her International and Business Etiquette Certification in 1997. She also is a Certified Meetings Professional (CMP).

A University of Washington graduate with 25 years experience in communications and hospitality, Horton has taught a course (Hotel 209) at Highline Community College in Des Moines since 2001. The nine-credit course in event and meeting planning is offered every spring and meets each Saturday for nine weeks. It is clear that Horton enjoys her charmed life in North Mason, interacting and educating a variety of her clients about the guidelines of manners or “etiquette.”

In chapter 1 of her most recent book, she reminds readers that “the kind mind is a way of life.” Horton asserts when you have a “kind mind,” you put people first … by treating everyone with the same level of respect and courtesy you would expect from them.

This just might be a restatement of the ever-popular “Golden Rule,” which many have defined as the rule of treating others as you would want to be treated in their place, and which may ultimately lead to your own happiness.
© 2008 Kitsap Sun


The following is a sampling of the articles that have appeared in the FTE News Magazine.

Table Talk du Jour
September 2008

Simply put: most people are as put off by bad conversation as a bad handshake. While the two really do go hand in hand, let’s take a moment to polish up on the important art of table talk.

You are hosting an important business meal. Your table manners are impeccable, you are dressed to kill, and you are having a great time with your associates. Then you begin talking about your recent operation and how nauseated you became afterwards. Or, you are on a diet and comment on the fat content of everything at the table. Or, you are going through a nasty breakup and feel the need to share the latest drama. All - inappropriate table talk!

When deciding what to talk about, think about how someone could respond to a statement you make. If you say, “I just had my gallbladder removed,” what would someone’s response be? If you say, “I’m going through a divorce right now,” what kind of response is in order? Obviously, the person would say they are sorry, putting your conversation in a downward spin from the get-go. Or, even worse, they might launch into their own health or relationship issues.

While small talk is an art form, it is never “small” in importance. How do you stay on track? Talk about all things positive. Negative topics breed negative and troublesome conversation. Look for topics that interest people or make them smile. For example, make a comment about how interesting the speaker is, how beautiful the building is, or how wonderful the food is. Don’t run the risk of insulting someone by making a negative comment about the building; the person sitting next to you might own it!

Be careful. Especially in business, personal questions are not appreciated. Please do not ask questions about a person’s lifestyle, such as whether they are married, whether they have children, etc. It is okay to ask them where they are from or where they live, but please do not ask them “why” they don’t have children, why they are divorced, or how much they paid for their new house – all too personal. However, if someone brings up their family life, such as that their children play sports, feel free to follow-up on that specific topic. If they insist on bringing up inappropriate topics, do your best to change the subject.

Prepare for business meals by reading newspapers, trade magazines and especially any specific information about a project or current topic of interest to your tablemates. Wouldn’t it be better to cement your relationships by bringing up these subjects rather than commenting on the weather? And remember, a good conversationalist is a good listener who pays attention to what others are saying, and doesn’t talk only about him or herself.


Step up and Speak out: Polishing your Presentation Skills
August 2008

Most people would rather sit in traffic or go to the dentist than give a public presentation. If this is you, let’s talk. In business, whether you are stating your case to your boss for a raise or speaking in front of the entire staff, it is important to stand up and be heard with style and grace. I’ve discovered a few secrets to establishing that all-important confidence, and I’d like to share them with you. Get ready to step up and speak out!

Here’s a few things to keep in mind before putting your speech to paper:
  1. If possible, visit the actual room where you will be presenting. Stand on the stage, feel the room. Understand fully the use of a microphone. Will it be clipped to your lapel, or will you be standing behind a podium with a microphone? Or, will you have to hold it in hand. If it is a lapel mic, you will have to have a place to put the battery pack, say in a pocket or clipped to your pants or skirt. Women – do not wear a dress without a jacket with a pocket or a skirt where you can clip the microphone. Sometime ask me about using duct tape to fasten my battery pack. Not a pretty story!

  2. Know who will be there. Often speakers can be thrown by a VIP who shows up or a guest that they were not expecting.

  3. If you are using audio/visual equipment, practice with the exact form you will be using. Please do not read from a Power Point presentation. A/V should enhance your talk; it is not meant to be a script. If you have notes, put page numbers on them just in case you drop them.

  4. Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing. There may be warm lighting.

  5. Do not eat a heavy meal or drink carbonated beverages before your talk!

  6. Avoid jokes; instead, rely on your warm personality. Look people in the eye and smile as you talk. Choose a few people to look at, then scan over the rest of the room looking at their foreheads. Speak slowly and clearly.

  7. Very important: stick to your time limit, and stay on topic.

  8. One thing I do to calm myself is to introduce myself to the people who are sitting at the back of the room. I tell them I am going to be looking at them to make sure the audience can hear me, and ask them to laugh at my jokes! I always find a kind and willing group, and it helps my comfort level every time. It’s like talking to friends!
Remember, everyone is rooting for you. If they weren’t interested in what you were going to say, they probably wouldn’t be there! The best gift you can give them is clearly presented information and, if appropriate, time for questions and answers.


Are You Dressed For Your Next Job?
July 2008

While it may not be true that “we are what we wear,” it certainly can seem like it in a business setting! In an increasingly casual culture, business dress has unfortunately been kicked to the curb. I say “unfortunately” because I truly believe we are doing ourselves – and our employers – a disservice by not knowing how to dress appropriately in the office.

Many of my clients have been forced to instigate dress codes to ward off the most obvious of dress nightmares, such as miniskirts and tank tops. Dress reflects not only on your own professionalism, but that of the organization you represent. If you are lucky enough to have a dress code, study up! And, if not, hopefully the following tips will help. If you have questions, check out Sherry Maysonave’s book, Casual Power, for a quick update on today’s do’s and don’ts.

Here’s what’s driving people crazy --
    1. Strappy shoes or sandals without socks;
    2. Flip flops!
    3. Low-rider or Capri pants;
    4. Any clothing that reveals a person’s underwear;
    5. Shirts or tops with logos or inappropriate artwork or sayings;
    6. Piercings. One or two earrings for women; one or none for men is commonly acceptable;
    7. When one can see a woman’s undergarments underneath her clothing;
    8. Tops or shirts that reveal a person’s mid-section. Shirts should be tucked in or worn well over a waistline;
    9. Manicures that interfere with a person’s ability to answer the phone or work at the computer; and
    10. Clothing or high-heels more appropriate for a cocktail party than a work day.
Why is there so much confusion? In the quest for appropriate business casual, even well-dressed executives are sometimes left out in the cold. Business dress traditionally means a business suit, for both men and women. “Business casual” is usually a bit more casual than traditional business dress, but is still appropriate for business, not the tennis court. The trick is to keep the professional look, and not go too far into the comfort zone! An example of business casual would be khaki pants (pressed), with a crisp shirt and sports jacket, sometimes with a tie. Essentially, business casual is one slight cut below business dress -- keep the iron hot!

Confused? My rule is this: always dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Take the guesswork out of your next promotion by putting yourself “in the picture” now! By dressing the part, management will already see you in your next role. And, clothing can affect your attitude! Why not look good and feel good every day?


Presenting Yourself Internationally
June 2008

Those who work in international business understand very well the importance of appropriate etiquette and polished manners. Unlike in the United States, where attitudes regarding informal social graces are becoming uncomfortably common and “acceptable,” it is not the case internationally. Business people are left with heads spinning when business deals go bad due to social gaffes because it probably will never be explained; e.g., perhaps a spouse or guest was ignored, or an introduction improperly conducted.

The best advice I can convey is to study up before doing business with other countries. It’s too late if you’re stopping by the book store on the way to the airport. Rest assured that internationals spend the required time studying our business protocol, and we should honor them the same way.

First, understand that you should honor the protocol and etiquette of the country in which you are traveling. Likewise, visitors to the United States will honor our protocol. This is why it is extremely important to educate ourselves on our own practices, as internationals are well versed in what is appropriate here. Know everything you can about the countries you will be working with in order to avoid sensitivities.

Keep in mind that in many countries, business is not done over a meal. Rather, mealtime is used to get to know each other personally. In some cases, it would be considered rude to bring up business at all.

Research the form of greeting for the country in which you will be traveling, and practice it carefully. And, while English may be the default language in many cases, speak slowly and clearly, and be prepared to repeat yourself. Americans are known for speaking too quickly. Often your point will simply be lost, as not every culture will ask you to repeat yourself.

If you are working with an interpreter, make eye contact with the person you are communicating with, not the interpreter. It can be awkward, but you will get used to it.

Americans are often thought of as “know it alls” -- keep your opinion to yourself until you have listened carefully to all points of view. Generally speaking, be culturally sensitive to everyone and accept that there are more ways to do things than you may have considered.

Polishing your presence internationally . . .
    1. Make detailed plans before you travel. Outside of the U.S. you cannot pick up the hotel room phone and set appointments; it is considered presumptuous and rude.
    2. Status is important. Here, the CEO of a major corporation could be on a first-name basis with the mail room attendant. Not so abroad! You will meet with people of the same level as yourself.
    3. Instant familiarity is not appreciated; do not call new acquaintances by their first names unless invited to do so.
    4. Introductions are critically important. Remember that the highest ranking executive’s name is spoken first: “Mr. Senior Executive, may I present Mr. Junior Executive.”


Breaking the Cell Phone Habit
May 2008

The popularity and convenience of cell phone use has created a new chapter in the world of business etiquette. It seems that many people are addicted to their cell phones, whether at work or at home. However, there is a difference between a personal cell phone and a work cell phone, which is an important distinction in the office! Some people have need for a cell phone on the job, others don’t. No matter which situation, cell phones should not be used for personal business in the office. And that goes for texting as well.

If the phone is part of your job, make sure to mute it during business meetings, and unless you have an emergency-related position, try to avoid looking at it to distraction when it buzzes in your pocket. Consider it the same situation as when someone is meeting with you in your office – proper manners dictate that you should not answer a phone call when someone is talking with you in your office (unless you have an emergency role within an organization). The exception to this is that if you know you are expecting an important emergency phone call, let your guest know in advance that you may have to excuse yourself from the meeting.

Just as it is a good idea not to begin an important conversation with someone as they are walking down the hallway (how do you know that they have time to talk to you?), it’s also impolite to chat away on a cell phone in the hallways or other “public” areas in an office building. This goes for other places as well, such as while you are waiting in line at the airport, bank or fast food restaurant. As we tend to speak louder on a cell phone, chances are someone will hear you, and they may not appreciate learning all about your doctor’s appointment or private conversation with a friend.

The most uncomfortable development I have run across has to do with cell phone use in restrooms! When I heard about this, I couldn’t believe it – then it happened to me. All I can say is: awkward! After all, one never knows who may be in the room or about to enter the room . . .


Avoiding Sensitive Etiquette Blunders
April 2008

While some people consider business manners a matter of “common sense,” there are a few behaviors that bear reviewing from time to time, especially with more and more casual behaviors making an appearance in the work place; for example, casual Friday or dress-down days. Here’s a few pet peeves that have come to light recently –

Casual Friday Alert! Sometimes when we dress more casually, we behave the same way. Resist the urge to be to chummy or informal with your associates or customers. Please remember to keep clothing conservative, clean and pressed.

Gender revisited – Gender makes no difference in business etiquette – the same rules apply for women and men. Be careful not to call women “girls” or men “boys,” rather use “women” and “men.” Do not refer to groups of people as “you guys.” Women shake hands the same as men, introduce themselves standing up just the same as men, etc. However, there are times when women go first, such as through a door.

Door Opening - It is appropriate for women to open doors for men, although they should give the man a chance at it first. It is particularly considerate when a man is carrying boxes or packages. Just as a man would, a woman should stop and say, “May I open that door for you?” to let him know she is ready to help.

Gum – Chewing gum in the work place still rates high on the pet peeve scale!

Hello? It seems people don’t appreciate hearing from us while we are going through the drive-up at a bank or fast food restaurant. Another one that has come up recently – talking on cell phones while in lines in banks or restaurants, or more shocking, in restroom stalls.

Flirting - The topic is sensitive but it deserves a mention, particularly in our more casual society. Be careful that your friendly demeanor and natural charm does not cross the line of good taste. The safest way to avoid misunderstandings is to keep your business conversations focused on business topics. A good rule of thumb: avoid saying or writing anything that you would not want your boss to hear or see.

One more thing, cutie . . . If you would like to maintain a professional reputation at work, avoid calling people “honey,” “sweetie,” or “dear.” Need I say more?


What is Your Word Usage Saying About You?
March 2008

It’s amazing how words can define us. From which words we choose to how we utter them, proper language sets the stage for how we are viewed professionally. A leader may know how to dress, how to walk, and how to shake hands properly, but if words are misused, the misunderstandings that follow can make successful communication a constant challenge.

In today’s world, spell check may rule, but it cannot save you from yourself when it comes to the spoken word. As a consequence, we may be blundering away on a regular basis without a clue. I agree with Ann Landers, “Know yourself! Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”

Our dogs may love us anyway, but your coworkers may not appreciate our misuse of words. How do we improve our grammar? By reading, listening and writing. It might feel like homework, but it can be an exciting journey. Picking up the works of great authors helps with creativity, and listening to great speakers opens up a whole new world when it comes to delivery – if we are paying attention. A good beginning. For me, the best exercise is to write and then write it again with help from of a variety of reference books. I also keep a list of words that tend to be confusing – or confused! Here’s a few to get your list going. Test these at your next staff meeting or at the family dinner table, and see what you discover:

Among or between? Choose among when you are choosing between more than two options, between when it is two.

Amount or number? Use amount when you are referring to the bulk or sum total of something, such as water or soil; use number when you are referring to something that can be counted, such as number of people.

Can or may? Use can when you are asking if someone has the ability to do something, such as “Can she speak German?” Use may when you are asking permission, “May I help you?”

Farther or further? Chose farther when you are talking about physical distance that can be measured, such as miles; use further when it is something that cannot be measured, like further study.

Fewer or less? Use fewer when items can be counted, such as people; use less when items cannot be counted, such as water.

Irregardless is actually an unacceptable version of “regardless.” Use the word “regardless.”


Hugging: Where do you stand?
Feburary 2008

Are you a hugger? Even at work? Hugging has become such a part of American life that it deserves plenty of attention, especially in the workplace. Let me start by saying that I am a hugger -- I hug my family and friends, but I do not hug business associates. Sounds pretty clear, right? Maybe not. What if your business associates become your friends? Then what do you do? My advice is to avoid hugging altogether in any business situation. Then you will never have to worry if you have made someone uncomfortable. There are also legal considerations when it comes to inappropriate touching in the workplace.

You would not believe how many people wait to see me after my talks around the country to ask me, “Stephanie, how can I stop people from hugging me?” It is not because they are mean or impersonal folks, and that really isn’t the point. The point is that hugging or touching someone other than a handshake is personal, too personal for business. Remember that proper etiquette is all about making people comfortable, not the opposite. So, it would be a breach of etiquette for someone to embarrass you by telling you to stop hugging them. To avoid the hug, extend your hand for a handshake. Hopefully this will work. Sometimes in business people will want to hug you to thank you for a job well done. Try extending your hand for a handshake, but otherwise you may have to accept the hug if you can to avoid embarrassment for all.

To be clear, in our culture, people like to have 2-3 feet as a “comfort zone” around them when interacting with others. When you step inside this circle, you are entering the personal zone, and risk making them uneasy.

Another point worth mentioning is what about people who have had surgery or suffer from an injury? A few years ago I had shoulder surgery, and I have very clear memories of those moments when I had to thwart off the huggers! Awkward! Also, many people simply don’t like being squeezed by someone they do not consider a close and personal friend. It’s kind of like having the checker at the grocery store call you by your first name when you do not know them at all. It crosses a line.

The bottom line on hugging: save it for your family and friends, and even then be careful.