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Practical Hugging 101. Monday April 20, 2015

If an on-line hug doesn't quite have the required effect, a mismanaged 'live' hug can also go amiss!

Let's face it, I didn't attend "Practical Hugging 101", did you?

And so guys in particular have learned the "How-to-bring-wind-up" hug. This involves an embrace that ensures the lower regions are as far apart as physics permits. Once there is no ambiguous message conveyed by the nether regions, the process of patting the back begins. If I could belch on demand, I would do this as a response, just to help guys get rid of this horrendous practice!

If you are going to hug someone, then hug them - don't patronise them!

An unusual blog-post perhaps, but I believe this is an important one. You see, as humans, we've done a deal to cope with the ambiguities of attention. Humans need attention. But not the wrong kind of attention.

Ideally, we need physical attention. This, however, is way too easily misunderstood and misinterpreted. So, here's the deal. We swap verbal attention for physical attention. At a pinch, we'll even trade in visual attention - a respectful glance or nod from a safe distance. But these are all poor imitations of the real close encounters of the third kind: direct physical attention.

How can we make contact safely - maximising the impact of our positive attention, but minimising the serious risk of being misunderstood? Firstly, I can speak only for Western Cultures. In the West, the region of the arm from the shoulder down to the elbow is widely understood as non-sexual. This means that it is usually OK to make contact with someone here - much like shaking hands. Of course, duration and pressure also play a part. Hold on to someone's arm for too long, and you'll be sending mixed messages! You've also got to be true to yourself. If you're not a touchy-feely person - or if they aren't, you need to learn, through practice, to recognise the signs.

If you do think a hug is appropriate, go for a brief embrace that is static - no need for patting the other person. Sometimes this is the most profound form of supportive contact - the impact of which goes way beyond anything we could articulate in words.

Surprise a friend with a hug!

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Hopeful One Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 6:51am

Hi Lex- Thank you for bringing to my attention the subtle points of a hug.Clearly I need brushing in some departments but I think I have got it broadly right? You did not mention a peck on the cheek which I often include if I sense that that would be appreciated.Is that surplus to requirement or OTT?Maybe you might deal with the netiquette of a cyber hug in another post.But seriously our non verbal communication is such an important part of our communication repertoire that psychologist reckon it could represent 40 to 60 % overall.We ignore it at our peril.

Sarah Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 7:06am

Hi Lex this is so interesting, I read body language before I give a hug but when it's right and people know what to expect eg no mixed message, it's almost as if they look forward to it! When I was growing up we had a family friend who hugged everyone and we all even the non huggers loved it because it was what we were used to from her and it felt so welcoming

Anonymous Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 7:15am

You've reminded me there was a show here a couple of years ago based on hugging! The show was held in a hotel room. Tickets were bought for a performance but each audience member would have their own slot...I think a couple of hours to each person. Swimwear was worn underneath fluffy robes, baths were given, skin and hair dried, then hugs settled in to and dished out for as long as required. It all sounds a bit dodgy but the reviewer said it was a profound experience. The 'artist' said he'd had grown men cry and say it was the first time they'd had that non-conditional care since childhood. It would need an awful lot of crazy regulation but, at its heart, I bet there'd be a lot of takers and perhaps a lot of benefit! Love from the room above the garage.

Anonymous Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 7:45am

Thank you Lex. For years I didn't realise there was a name for it, a "patronising hug", but that is exactly what it was and why I always felt so resentful of this person for doing it when it didn't feel right!! I am soooooo relieved! I DONT think your blog is a strange topic . On the contrary, it is the subtlety of it that is so useful to help decode a crucial message. That hugging should be entered into with caution and mutual consent, is not natural if it feels unnatural, whatever the conviction of the other person may be about it, that non verbal contact conveys a message too, and that that message must be honest and sincere and not just used as a means of control or power taking by another person. Some might think I am reading into this too deeply, but believe me, I do not think I am, and in any case it is what I MYSELF believe, and as a person in her own right, I have a right to my view and a right to own my feelings about an issue which is perhaps one of the last remaining taboos in our society!

Melanie Lowndes Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 8:22am

Good post Lex! Hugs can be wonderful, rather embarrassing or a way for someone to have a subtle grope or overlay it with some sort of sexual nuance. I know the difference when I receive each but you don't know which it will be until you get it. Best to avoid hugs with that person if you find out it is the wrong sort of hug - sadly it still leaves unsaid feeling between you and that person if for you it was the wrong sort of hug - that is the next step - the growing edge is to talk about this with that person if they are someone you are close enough to. As to giving them - I usually only do hugs when I feel it will be welcome - sometimes just ask- especially if it is a child / teenager - can I hug you? Thank you! PS I gave a hug in January to the father of my ex who was to die of cancer within 3 months. His wife was trying to stop me - scared I would give him something I think (like a cold although he already had one) - now I am so glad I gave that hug. I think Sarah says it well when hugs are appreciated and Anonymous above - I totally get what you are saying too. I know it when I have done a patronising hug - or an unwelcome hug - it feels "off" - best thing is to apologise afterwards if you become aware of this.

Hopeful One Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 9:03am

Hi anon 7.45- might you be taking yourself too seriously? (Said with tongue in cheek)

Mary Blackhurst Hill Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 9:05am

Brilliant as always Lex. I am reminded of a meme I saw on Facebook last week. "It's Engineering Week. Hug an engineer today!" (Photo of a rather uncomfortable looking chap being enthusiastically hugged by a young woman) "They won't like it; but hug them anyway!" I always laugh when I see two hetrosexual men hugging each other with hearty back slapping and a minimum 18" between their groins! I love your description of it as the bringing up wind hug. By and large, hugs are something we girls have got right, but they can be misunderstood sometimes. So thanks for this. Great post.

Hopeful One Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 9:05am

Hi RATG- lovely to hear from you . Maybe we in Moodscope should launch Hug Yoga?

Mary Blackhurst Hill Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 9:12am

I was looking for a video I saw the other day showing a rather attractive young man, bare chested, holding a placard saying "Free Hugs" but found this article instead from the Northampton Chronicle a few days ago. I loved the words of 78 year old Brian : “It made me feel great. Even if it was a gentleman hugging another gentleman, people just don’t give enough hugs.” Oh, and if any of you would like to see that bare-chested young man here he is (sigh)

Hopeful One Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 9:17am

Hi Mary- I have no problems with a hetero se Hal male to male hug although I have not indulged in back slapping( too East European or Italian for me) . My problem is a male to female hug where the ' sex thing' is always lurking in the background when it's the farthest thought in my mind! Any suggestions?

Anonymous Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 10:23am

Hi Lex, thanks for your honest and fun post. We girls don't seem to have the same problem with regard to hugging; we keep it simpler probably because we are less self-conscious about it. My husband hates to be huggled by men friends and goes out of his way to avoid them (the hugs, not the friends). He does, however, often beat them to it by going up beside them, putting his arm around their shoulders and giving their upper arm a bit of a squeeze. Don't know if that would be considered patronizing or not, but it seems to take care of the problem -- at least for him. susan xx

Caroline Ashcroft Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 2:56pm

Nice video Mary. Have you noticed that when he hugs the men there's quite a lot of back patting going on, but not with the women.

Anonymous Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 3:18pm

Hug Yoga! And a new lifestyle is born...
:-D love ratg x.

Hopeful One Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 4:48pm

Hi RATG- googled it out of curiosity and sad to say it already exists . Apparently it is part of Bhakti Yoga and Karma yoga. There is a remarkable lady called by the impossible sounding name of Sri Mata Amritanandya mayi whose hug seems to transmit pure love to the receipent . One has to stand in a long queue though to receive one as she is so famous for that.

Anonymous Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 5:34pm

And where is the end of the queue? I have a flask. Shall I pop in a spare mug for you? :-)

Hopeful One Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 7:31pm

Hi anon 5.34 I am afraid there isn't one. So maybe we can keep the flask and mug(s) in reserve?

Anonymous Mon, Apr 20th 2015 @ 10:00pm

:-) it was me ratg. If there is no end of queue...we must be it! Yahoo!

Anonymous Tue, Apr 21st 2015 @ 7:44am

[Lex from another computer] That's a great strategy, Susan. Facing one another is always at risk of being intimidating - even if just across a table. Side by side is much safer... and an arm around the shoulders is just about as safe as it gets whilst being really supportive.

Anonymous Tue, Apr 21st 2015 @ 7:45am

[Lex from another computer] I SO want to see this programme... let alone be on it!!!! RATG... you are a constant delight to me.

Anonymous Tue, Apr 21st 2015 @ 7:49am

[Lex from another computer] Hi Ya Hopeful One... I think a peck gets my pecker up (does that sound dodgy?) I tend to frame it with most people to share my 'rules' which is a 'European' peck on both cheeks. Once people have permission and know the rules, it seems to make it all easier.

Julia Tue, Apr 21st 2015 @ 8:22am

Hi anon 745. You hsve clearly suffered horribly because of this person who hugged you in a manner which did not feel right. In my experience, it can take years and years to realise how wrong some people's behaviour was in the past. But it's never too late. Thank you Lex for dealing with an issue which affects us all.

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