In the discussion of tactile greetings in our culture, it would remiss not to start with the most common - the handshake. As social animals, these are chock full of information. We may only make vague note of our first impressions and judgments based on a handshake, but they are there.
For example, we’ve all received the “dead fish” – the one where it just feels like a limp appendage comes to rest briefly in your palm. Or how about what I have dubbed “The Lobster Claw?” A lunging reach, culminating in a mildly painful pincer grasp. What do you perceive about each of these people? Is it different if it’s a man or woman delivering it?
I should confess here that I often view handshakes as an awkward, antiquated greeting – and one of the best ways to spread illness. So, it’s pretty tough to win with me on that front. In my experience, less than half of the time do people land what I would consider the perfect hand to hand contact. Let’s call it “The Classic.” It is marked by a warm, unrushed, confident touch, coupled with simultaneous eye contact and a few kind words.
Hugs are a completely different story. Good, solid ones may well be the antidote for our touch deprived culture. They seem to be regaining popularity, even in a casual business setting. At least, it seemed like I received more of them at events this holiday season. I tell myself that is because I’m getting more huggable with age. Or more likely, with age, there is less risk of it being received as flirty. Boooo.
Regardless, it set me to wondering. Is there a cultural shift happening? I really hope so. While still giving rise to a silent opinion, they are virtually impossible to screw up because at any given time we all secretly could use a hug.
I decided a very informal text poll of some contacts was in order. It turns out, the responses were surprisingly specific and heartfelt. Here are some direct answers, though some partial, to “Tell me an observation you’ve made about hugs.”
“Bigger people equal bigger, warmer hugs.” VS
“If they give a quick one, it is just out of obligation. If they hold on and squeeze for a bit, that tells me they are sincere. This is true whether from a man or woman.” -Pat R
Sarah states: “I’d just like to take boobs out of the hugging equation.” I don’t care how they are perceived. I just don’t want to be pushing my boobs onto people.” (it should be noted here that Sarah has magnificent boobs)
“Hugs with backpacks are awkward because you can’t get your arms all the way around.” -VS
Beth says, “It’s the only way left to physically show affection to my kids. Can’t kiss them anymore, but hugs are great!”
“A good hug feels like letting the air out of an overinflated tire – a stress reliever.” -Jim
“Usually I notice what kind of clothes they’re wearing because I am short, so my face is on their chest. Also, I’ll notice what they smell like and how warm they are and if they hug you tightly.” - JP
“The verdict is still out on whether or not they are better than drugs.” –KK
What’s it all mean? I can’t answer for everyone. But as my New Year’s Resolution, I plan to hug to the verge of being against social convention. In that moment of hesitation, I hope you decide to embrace with abandon. Turns out it’s what we are all craving…and it’s FREE!