Let’s be clear about one thing: I have always been a hugger, and hugging someone was one of the greatest pleasures in my encounter with others. I feel that hugs convey a lot more meaning than just a brief physical confirmation that ‘I am here’, ‘I’m not a threat’ and ‘I enjoy being close to you’. There is an exchange of physical signals, of course, but it goes far beyond just that.
Sometimes that hug and the shape it takes can tell you more about the person and their current state of mind than you’d be ready to believe at face value. Next time you hug someone, consider these things (and more):
How long are you prepared to hold the hug? Is it one of those perfunctory hugs that are expected on occasion and you are really not into it? Would you like to hang on but are afraid it may feel too much for the other person?
How tight will you go? Are you REALLY squeezing the other person, pressing out the last bit of breath, or are you a light touch? Why did you choose this particular kind of hug? Is there a mental distance between the two of you?
Are there different kinds of hugs you reserve for particular groups of people? Or are you indiscriminate in your hugs?
There are so many ways to hug someone that it is surprising just how little thought goes into a hug, right? That’s what happened to me last week: I hugged someone and I started to wonder if I was expecting, giving and receiving the right kind of hug. And to my own surprise, I found that this particular hug was not satisfying at all. In fact, I felt that it wasn’t even necessary.
For the first time, I actively considered if this rather common exchange of pleasantries was actually doing what it was supposed to achieve: making us feel closer, feel held and understood, comfortable. Of course, some of this was happening, but by no means was it to the level that I had hoped for.
This made me wonder: how do we actually know what kind of hug is right? For me. For them. For comfort. For friendship. For communication.
Food for thought.
These are my own thoughts on aspects of my work I feel strongly about.