Decoding the apt body language as a representative of your country is essential. Etiquette experts weigh in...
Every time Narendra Modi has shared the stage with influential international figures, his handshakes and hugs have repeatedly become the story of the day. Recently, when the prime minister, met Donald Trump, he once again pulled the US President towards him for an embrace. Even Donald has become a target of media scrutiny for his signature handshake. But where does one draw the line while attempting to present oneself as affable without evading someone else’s space?
Etiquette expert Sheena Aggarwal feels that hugging someone should only be restricted to when you know the person personally. “Everyone is not comfortable with a hug, especially when you don’t know the person well. It is like encroaching their personal space,” she warns.
Maintaining an arm’s length distance is always safe and advisable when you are representing a nation and at diplomatic conventions. “The Prime Minister is trying to extend warmth and build a rapport. He is not depicting that he is powerful or superior and is trying to send out a message, which is okay. But is everyone comfortable with the hugs? I don’t think so. It is important to greet people in the way they are comfortable with and maintain gender equality — addressing with folded hands when in India is a form of greeting, while the French are comfortable with a hug and a peck on the cheek,” Sheena says.
However, body-language expert Suneeta Kanga says that when delegates and political leaders are travelling they are allowed to break the rules. “George Bush gave a visibly uncomfortable Angela Merkel a back rub, and it made the news. I think the Prime Minister is allowed to break the rules, which civilians should usually follow. He has travelled the world and is always seen embracing people. Who would’ve ever imagined him hugging Donald Trump? He is there to send a message, and he is doing it very well. It makes for a good photo op, and when you have a charisma as he does, I think he can be allowed to bend the rules,” says Suneeta.
While a handshake is always the best bet at international platforms, Donald Trump's bizarre handshake has been in the limelight for many reasons, “Some handshakes show arrogance, superiority and power. There are various types of handshakes too, and one should just stick to them depending on the culture of the country you are visiting,” she says.
The code of conduct
Always maintain one arm’s distance from the person and do not encroach their personal space
Look in the eye while shaking hands and not anywhere else
Do your homework and learn the fundamental ways of greeting in different cultures
Be humble and confident, do not appear to be arrogant
— Sheena Aggarwal and Suneeta Kanga