Appropriate Touching in Society

Nov 10, 2015 by Cathy (Day Styles)

The touching we are discussing is not the bedroom kind, it’s how people like to be touched in social settings. A recent study from the University of Oxford has discovered it’s not what you think. We are living in a world where natural human relations are getting the boot. Evolution dictates humans need regular physical touch to be healthy; it’s part of our genetic makeup. And if you teach yourself to get along without basic touch, you’re creating mental interference. In most public schools, there’s a “no touch" policy. Kids aren’t even allowed to hug one another without getting a lecture. We are taking the extreme here as a society and it’s making humans distant, disconnected, and robotic. Oxford studies show you are best to remain cautious and start with the prim and proper, oh so boring handshake when you first greet. That says we are reluctant to be touched by strangers even in the most basic non-threatening form.

Kissing Okay…

Recently, we are following in the footsteps of the Europeans and offering a kiss on one or both of the cheeks for a new greeting. This method of first meeting someone is socially acceptable, but that doesn’t mean everyone is on board. Many people find a kiss highly offensive because the level or degree of intimacy from a total stranger is too much. To bridge the gap of awkwardness, a gentle arm hold before the kiss has been created. This communicates to the recipient the kiss that’s coming is just a friendly gesture and they aren’t going to have a make-out session. When you step back and think about it, that makes perfect sense. Otherwise, you might get caught off-guard and if you aren’t expecting something you’re naturally going to condition yourself to get anxious. Think of it like you might get a bit of a numbing agent on your arm before a needle. Your warning the needle is coming so you better get ready.

Confusion – Touching Equals Relationship

Our society interprets touching as some sort of relationship. We use the degree and what’s being touched as a signal to shout out to the world what type of a relationship it is. If two people are making out at the café, it’s safe to assume they are romantically involved. Touch has different interpretations. If my dad snagged me in a bear hug, I would find that comfortable and safe, and I would try and wiggle my way out. If a friend hugged me, I would associate that hug with the positive. However, if a random stranger snuck up behind me and hugged me by surprise, chances are he’d wind up with a foot to the head and depending on my mood, he may have trouble breathing until I can figure out if he’s a real threat or not. Touching is situational, where the same gesture can mean a multitude of different things. It’s personal and you need to figure out where your comfort level is and let other people know.

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