Around Granger Community we train our guest services teams to meet people where they are. This includes allowing our guests to set their own "safety space." So, we work at reading and responding to body language. Here's a quick take on this concept from my book, How to Wow Your Church Guests: 101 Meaningful Ways to Make a First Impression (Group Publishing):
It’s really simpler than you think. Not everyone wants to have their hand shaken. Churched people want handshakes (unless there’s a flu epidemic, then no one wants a handshake); people new to your church may only want a courteous “hello.” Read the body language of your guests to determine an appropriate greeting.
- Both hands are buried deeply in his pockets. He doesn’t want to shake your hand.
- A parent is holding tightly to their kids hands. Don’t offer a handshake.
- Her eyes are focused on the carpet. She doesn’t want to make eye contact. Probably not going to shake her hand. You may not even get the opportunity to speak as she passes.
- He’s answering as briefly as possible while glancing at his watch every three seconds. He’s not into your conversation. Don’t trap him; let him go on his way.
- He stepped into the lobby and stopped for two seconds as he surveyed the space cautiously. He’s likely new. Approach him with a personal introduction and a handshake.
- She’s reading the weekend program (or bulletin) word for word. She’s new. No one in your church reads it thoroughly. Opportunity to connect.
- He’s standing alone in the hallway. Good chance he’s waiting for his lady who’s in the restroom. He hates this wait. He feels conspicuous. Eliminate the mystery: “Will someone try to talk to me?” Put him out of his misery. Introduce yourself.
Make instant assessments. If your guest is communicating, “Leave me alone.” Listen. Otherwise, extend a personal welcome.