There are many different ways of greeting people depending on the culture of the country you are visiting. It is therefore best to be aware of these if you are doing business abroad or even taking a holiday.
Here we discuss the general forms of greeting:
- eye contact
- the handshake and kiss on one cheek – formal but also more friendly, you know the other person quite well and usually like them
- the kiss on two cheeks often holding onto the other persons shoulders- much more friendly
- the hug – intimate and very friendly
- the kiss on the lips – very intimate and very friendly
- the smile but no bodily contact – we know the person but are not that close to them, or feel rather shy or uncomfortable in touching them
There are cultural differences in how much eye contact it is acceptable to give another person when meeting them and listening to them. In Britain, America and Canada quite a lot of eye contact is given between individuals. In Europe less so although research has shown the Greeks prefer a considerable amount of eye contact, the Swedes less so. Arabs are fairly dependent on maintaining eye contact while the Japanese tend to look downward, aiming at a person’s neck rather than directly into their eyes.
When you meet someone, you should aim to hold the eye contact while smiling and shaking hands with them and then break eye contact when the other person looks away, or when you finish shaking hands and change your body posture.
Too much eye contact can make the other person feel uncomfortable. It can be used as a dominant gesture and is an invasion of privacy.
If you give too little eye contact it can suggest boredom, disinterest or maybe shyness. Closing the eyes completely when making conversation is a negative signal.
If the person refuses to give you eye contact then try asking a direct question. Once you get eye contact, no matter how fleeting, connect with it and smile to show encouragement and to build rapport.
When flirting our eye contact tends to rove, giving quick glances accompanied by smiling and laughing. When more serious flirting is taking place the gaze will linger longer and when intimate will move from the eyes to the mouth and occasionally drop to the neck. To deal with unwanted flirting keep your gaze on the business zone, that of eyes and forehead.
Your smile should be warm and welcoming. Obviously the better you know someone and like them the warmer your smile. We all know, or have met, people who although smiling their eyes show no warmth or welcome and the gesture is an empty one. False smiles are held in place, the lips stiff and stretched and the eyes stay unsmiling. This is also often an aggressive and sometimes dominant stance and can be used as a gesture to keep people at their distance.
The handshake is a very powerful body language gesture. You can form an instant impression of someone by the way they shake hands with you and it can also tell you a considerable amount about the person you are dealing with. Until recently the handshake was predominantly a male body language gesture and women, unless they were of a higher social class, did not shake hands. However, times have changed and there are now many more women in business and the workplace and so both men and women use the handshake.