It certainly feels good to hug someone you love, and based on research on the health benefits of touch (Gallace & Spence, 2010), it should also provide a boost to your immune system. Hugging, of course, takes place in many situations, from greetings and goodbyes to funeral condolences and congratulations to college grads.
We certainly hug a lot. But who decides when it’s appropriate or not? Have you ever reached over to hug a non-relative, casual acquaintance, or colleague only to feel that you overstepped the boundaries as you saw them pull away? In an atmosphere where many people receive training in how to avoid sexual harassment, would you like to hug someone but fear it will spark a complaint about you?
Clearly, we could use some guidelines to help us determine when to hug and when to shake hands, or whether to avoid any touching whatsoever. These seven empirically-based rules will help you avoid the embarrassment, or worse, from a poorly-timed or unwelcome hug.
Physical affection between people who care about each other is certainly a desirable and pleasant experience. With an appropriate degree of hugging, you’ll be able find fulfilling and reasonable ways to keep strong the bonds of intimacy and friendship.
Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, "Fulfillment at Any Age," to discuss today's blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.
Gallace, A., & Spence, C. (2010). The science of interpersonal touch: An overview. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 34, 246-259
Miller, M. J., Denes, A., Diaz, B., & Ranjit, Y. (2014). Touch attitudes in cross‐sex friendships: We're just friends. Personal Relationships, 21(2), 309-323. doi:10.1111/pere.12033
Sehlstedt, I., Ignell, H., Backlund Wasling, H., Ackerley, R., Olausson, H., & Croy, I. (2016). Gentle touch perception across the lifespan. Psychology And Aging, 31(2), 176-184. doi:10.1037/pag0000074
Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2016