How To Turn Down A Hug Without It Being Really Awkward

The impassioned lockdown hugger has come for us all at some point, arms as wide as their smile – and it’s only going to happen more as lockdown eases.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston says people should still avoid the greeting. “Despite the temptation, please don’t risk the health of your loved ones by actually hugging them and risk the spread of the disease,” he told BBC Breakfast. “Of course when you’re hugging somebody, you’re in incredibly close proximity to them, so please again just be sensible.”

But, as lockdown lifts and beer jackets are donned, avoiding these spontaneous embraces is only going to become more of a challenge. Many of us have given in and hugged when we weren’t meant to in these past 12 months – but if you want to avoid one without making it incredibly awkward, this may help.

1. Show that you want to – but can’t

It’s all about showing you’re on the hugger’s level and not acting too high and mighty about your hug avoidance, say social etiquette champions Debretts. “Don’t back off saying things like ‘I don’t want to catch anything’, which is insulting to the potential hugger,” says expert Liz Wyse.

Rather than reacting to their body language, intentionally create your own vibe. “Take a decisive step back, flash a rueful smile and say something depreciating like ’I’m so sorry, I’m really law-abiding at the moment’,” she says.

2. If that’s not going to work, try cracking a joke

You can melt hearts and change minds with a good dash of humour – and smiles are proven to give us all endorphin rushes. So lean into comedy to make your point without having to hammer it home.

Try cracking a joke about how your pal is being a dare-devil rule breaker, or how actually, it’s been lovely spending a year not having to hug everyone in close proximity! Otherwise, you could try flattery with a touch of comedy.

“Head the hugger off at the pass by blowing semi-ironic kisses from a safe distance,” suggests Wyse. By then you’re already halfway out the door – not that parks and outdoor spaces have doors, but you get our point.

The elbow bump has become the new social norm

The elbow bump has become the new social norm

3. Not taking the hint? Stick your elbow out and stay strong

Elbow bumping has extinguished some of the social pressure around hugs; some enjoy the new way of greeting others that feels less formal than a handshake, but less invasive than a warm embrace.

To ward off unwanted body clutches, an elbow is best adopted at short notice. “If the hugger’s enthusiasm and momentum remains unchecked, brandish a defensive elbow,” offers Wyse. “If it feels necessary, an explanatory, ‘It’s all about elbow bumps now, isn’t it?’ remark should stop them in their tracks.”

4. Or – if it gets to it – here’s how to hug as safely as possible

If it ends up happening and a pal sneaks up after one too many drinks, you can still stay safe while doing it. “If all else fails, of if you’re confronted by someone who is intoxicated and over-enthusiastic, turn your face away when hugging, looking over the hugger’s shoulder, and hold your breath for the duration of the hug, which should be short-lived,” says Wyse.

We've all avoiding hugs for so long

We’ve all avoiding hugs for so long
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