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Hug it out but ONLY on the way out…

One of the amazing things I experience when communicating with people is that feeling. That feeling when you simply know. That feeling when you meet someone, you shake their hand, you both look at each other and simply feel it. Happened to you? A sort of an emotional spark. Then, during the next few minutes of your conversation with that person, your instincts, your old-brain, will signal you whether indeed that emotional spark was relevant. As the meeting goes on, if the spark was right, you will find yourself doing what I call the “sub-conscious emotional dance”. You kind of test, sub-consciously, during the meeting what you felt when you and that other person met. Sometimes it does not happen at the first glance but rather in the middle of the meeting. As if a flurry of awakening came on to you. You present something and peek at the other person to see if they agree with you. They give you a half of a smile and a nod – OK, dance move number 1 was successful. Then they make a comment or ask a question related to the slides someone else in the room just displayed. You voice your agreement with their comment which leads immediately to the both of you looking at each other as if saying: “I got your back”.

That kind of a feeling.

Been there? Know what I am talking about?

The problem, however, is that most of us, just keep it to ourselves. As if we experienced something forbidden. Something that is best kept as a secret. If you were to share what you feel with that other person, it might be seen as something awkward. Different. After all, we are all taught in the corporate environment that it is NOT OK to share feelings out in the workplace. It is NOT OK to express emotions. If you experienced anything like the scenario I just described above, you will admit that when that meeting ended, there was an awkward moment of goodbye. Where you both felt like laughing and hugging each other but couldn’t.

"Play by the rules but be ferocious"

Phil Knight

What do you think would have happened if at the end of that meeting, where both you and your new emotional friend actually did what you felt like doing and….hugged each other goodbye? This is what you really wanted to do. And I think…it’s OK. Most of us, by far, NEED that feeling of connection. However, how do we deal with that gap between corporate guidelines and our own humane innate needs to be connected and feel hugged? A need. Not a want.

A few months ago, I was leading a team through a face-to-face presentation to a prospect. Since I believe a presentation is a one-way form of communication, we called it a face to face solution discussion. This was after about 7 months of a sales cycle, so we already formed some level of relationship with a few of the decision makers. We never met in person.

Arriving to the meeting location we were greeted at the lobby of the office building by one of the main people on the prospect’s side. They recognized some of our faces from previous online calls and when they got to me, BOOM, there it was. THAT feeling. That emotional spark. That half of a wink combined with a kind smile that says something like – oh yeah. You and I. Let’s do this.

Man, when it happens. Magic.

The session was great. When it was my turn to share what I prepared, it’s as if my new emotional friend was guiding me. Subtle body gestures. A nod. A supporting comment and even a one great set-up which I nailed.

We finish the meeting. All together we were 16 people in the room. We start packing our stuff while we start the goodbyes. All smiles and formal handshakes. And all I wanted to do was get a real hug. I mean, you could feel it in that room. Everyone was happy. We’ve known each other for months now. We just had a great discussion. We didn’t win the deal at that point but as humans, a wonderful experience all together. You could feel, you could tell, everyone in the room wanted to hug each other good-bye. We all felt that closeness. That emotional connection and were instinctively inclined to hug goodbye. We didn’t. As the non-written corporate guidelines and HR regulations hovered over our heads defying us from being….us!

My new emotional friend and I finally got to squeeze ourselves through the good-bye commotion in the room until we were facing each other. We paused for a second. Smiled. Communicating without speaking. It was a beautiful moment that was tarnished by a cordial handshake instead of an emotional hug. I mean, for the two of us it felt as if we just won the world championship. We just experienced something amazing together and we wanted to express it with a loud hug as if we are both on the same team that just scored a touch-down and we are celebrating it together. But we couldn’t. The commissioner doesn’t allow it. So, we are looking at each other with a smirk and shaking hands.

My personal opinion – go for it! At least offer it. While some people might say no thanks: ”I don’t like to be hugged”, I guarantee you that most of us would love that. And, with one little gesture, you will check the boxes on all three pillars of Emotional Relevance: you will Stand-Out, you will Make an Impact and you will also Get Personal. Which will lead to a higher level of trust and to be remembered. And that is exactly what you’re looking for.

My new friend walked us out. All 5 of us on my team. We chit chat a bit along the narrow corridors of their offices and talk about our families, sports, and other non-work-related topics. Adrenaline is still there. Oxytocin that was triggered from the meeting is still at a high level.

We get to the large lobby opening. Return our security badges. Our escort is still with us all the way to the parking lot. We get to our car, open the trunk, put our bags in there and some of us are already seated in the car. It is then when we looked at each other again. It is then when I saw him looking back as if checking if anyone is watching. And it is then when we approached each other and hugged goodbye. We laughed. Like two teenagers who just got away with cheating on a test or something. We hugged and it felt great.

As we are hugging and laughing, I said to him: “this is what they call hugging it out right?” so he says: “yup, but only on the way out”.

3 weeks and 2 more sessions later we got awarded the business. What percentage of that decision was due to that hug? Only god knows. I do know that we became friends. And even though neither of us still works at the same place where we met, we still hug every time we meet. It’s been a while since we met due to the virus but I can still feel it.

Every time we meet we are hugging it out. And not just on our way out.

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