by Sandy Penny
Hugging seems like such a simple act, what can be complicated about it? You put your arms around a person and pull them close, isn't that about it?? Actually hugging can be a very significant ritual, appropriate in some places and taboo in others.
There was recently some news on hugging in the workplace where it was considered too familiar, too intimate and bordering on sexual harassment. A hug is a way of connecting, and the connection can be on many levels. A hug can send a message of "I feel like we're friends," or it can send a message saying "I'm not willing to get that close to you."
And it's not just whether you hug or don't hug that sends the message. The type of hug can get the message over loud and clear. Leaning forward so you hardly touch another person when you hug may indicate a reluctance to connect with that person, or a reluctance to connect in general. Sideways hugs can indicate a feeling of distance or a desire to distance yourself from that person, or it can just mean you're in a hurry. It can be a perfunctory social requirement.
How long you hold a hug, whether you move your hands while you hug, how you position your arms when you hug, all mean something, all communicate something about your relationship with that person and with people in general.
What are you communicating when you hug? Take some time to think about whether you really want to hug someone, if you don't, extend your hand in a handshake. That gives a message too.
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