1. The Awkward Denial Because Of Freshly Washed Hands
This is why I spend quite a bit of time next to the hand dryer or paper towels in a restroom when I’m at a party. If the restroom is crowded and you have to exit with damp hands, then I suggest grabbing a drink as quickly as possible so there’s a plausibly innocuous reason your hand is wet.
2. The Cheek Kiss Of Undetermined Number
The number of kisses varies in different parts of the world. Midway through the first cheek kiss (actually just an air kiss), you should sense the momentum of your friend - is he/she releasing you or pulling you in for another round? Learn to sense these clues, usually felt in the arms and shoulders.
3. The Uncertain Wave At Someone Not Waving At You
I always look behind me first before I wave at an ambiguous waver. The upside of this action is twofold. First, you can avoid this embarrassing moment. Second, if the person is waving at you, the very worst that will happen is he/she will be slightly amused at your uncertainty, and you can just chuckle and say, “haha, I just know you have so many friends!” (Or something flattering like that.)
4. The Unintentional Overshot Handshake Turned Wristshake
NOTE: the *intentional* wristshake is perfectly acceptable and is preferred by many. Therefore if you do overshoot your standard handshake, then just be sure to commit fully to the wristshake and grab as high up on the forearm as you can.
5. The Hug Denial Followed By A Half-hearted Handshake
If you’ve just met someone, then you probably should not assume he/she wants to hug. That’s why it’s best to start with the less intimate handshake and see what develops from there. Things rarely develop in a downward direction. Start small.
6. The Hugging Someone Of A Vastly Different Height With Uncertain Arm Placement
My rule: If you could easily watch TV standing directly behind the person you’re hugging, then you should go ahead and assume his/her arms are both going to go under yours.
7. The Unrequited High Five
Being “left hanging” might be the worst feeling in the world. The best way to avoid this is: 1) Announce your high five intention. “I REQUEST A HIGH FIVE.” This is so dumb you can play it off as something you are doing “ironically.” But really you are doing it genuinely. 2) Alternately, you can simply end the embarrassment by high fiving yourself. Accompany it with something like, “Nobody? Okay.”
8. The Denied Frontal Hug Turned Sidehug
It’s the responsibility of the hug initiator to: 1) understand your relationship and the affinity the huggee has for touching; 2) raise arms in such a way as to display clearly which kind of hug is being initiated; 3) be willing to adjust to a side hug if it’s clear that such is wanted. I notice that sidehugs are particularly popular anywhere I see friend-acquaintances regularly (for instance at my church.)
9. The Conflicted Fistbump Or High-five
The high-five is typically completed high above shoulder level. At least it should be. The reason this awkward which-one-is-it moment happens is someone is trying to high-five at shoulder level or lower. Watch the height of the hand as it approaches you, and you’ll almost never run into trouble. (And if you do, it’s the fault of the initiator.) NOTE: it often results in something my colleague Dan Meth cleverly dubs a “FLUMP.”
10. The Immediately Forgotten Name
The best practice here is to say the name immediately in return once you hear it. Even so, sometimes distraction gets the best of us. It might be embarrassing to ask someone what his name is just after he told you, but I assure you the longer you wait the worse it is. If this happens to you, simply bite the bullet and say something like, “I know you just said it two seconds ago, but I did not catch your name.” This is fine because you’re still in the honeymoon phase of your acquaintance.
11. The Mutually Undesired Hug
Sometimes you lean in and he/she leans in and things just get a little crazy. You might have a hug in your past like this that still haunts you when you remember it. You know what? Let it go. Life is short, and we should maybe hug sometimes when we don’t mean to.