Deanna Galer, Staff Writer
Through nearly four years here, I’ve been known for various troublemaking: abolishing the Student Government, writing lengthy Facebook rants, and borrowing the gaudy plastic furniture from the laundry room. In recent months, though, I’ve garnered quite the reputation for hugging. So here it is, folks, an article written originally for Professional Communication (BUS 206) on the various ways to hug. First, the justification: Psychologists have shown that even a brief hug releases oxytocin, also known as ‘the cuddle hormone,’ which can lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, and promote feelings of trust. So, between this season’s turkey and pie, consider these ways to keep yourself healthy.
Proper hugging begins by assessing the situation. You should only engage in a hug if both parties want to, which can be communicated verbally or nonverbally. Nonverbal agreement for hugging most frequently happens when, with outstretched arms, one party enters a second party’s personal space at a steady pace with enough time for the second party to divert the invitation if they so choose. “Whenever I’m unsure if someone’s coming in for a hug or not, I lift both arms to an ambiguous height, poised to complete their hug or to shrug and say something like, ‘So good to see you,’” says one young woman with 21 years of hugging experience.
She also knows that different hugs fit different situations: “I hug my partner differently than I hug my mom, and my mom differently than my dog.” The most standard hug is one in which two human parties interlock their arms around each other’s’ bodies, typically with the right arm over the other person’s left arm, and left arm under the other person’s right arm. This criss-cross hug is appropriate for most situations and works especially well for people of a similar height. If hugging someone of differing height, you can either mitigate the height difference by bending down or standing on your tiptoes to still engage in the criss-cross hug, or modify the technique so one person has both arms on top, and the other person has both arms on the bottom. Another technique is the side-arm hug which can be done quickly and with minimal physical contact, by simply placing one arm over the other person’s shoulder. American males have given rise to another hugging technique known as the bro hug. To initiate, two bros begin with a mid-five/handshake with their right hands. They swiftly pull each of their bodies together and swing their left arms around the back of the other bro. They then pat the other bro’s shoulder or back with 1-3 open palmed pats. The latter actions occur while the right hands are still interlocked, creating space between the bros’ bodies.
Before engaging in a hug, if either of the parties is holding anything or has other physical limitations, both parties are responsible for adjusting their approach to fit the needs. If a human subject is hugging a non-human subject, the human should hug in a safe and comfortable way that works for them. If two non-human subjects are hugging, such as two massive polar bears, run away because it is more likely than not that the non-humans are actually fighting. That’s one hug you will not want to consent to!
Finally, you must consider the situation and relationship to parties involved when deciding on how tightly to hug and for how long. The grip and duration of a hug can vary greatly. The more intimate the relationship, the tighter the hug. The more meaningful the hug, the longer it lasts. The most fulfilling hugs are the ones from special people in our lives. So, remember to hug well and hug often. Don’t misjudge the situation because a poorly done, poorly timed hug can lead to trouble, or at least a great deal of awkwardness.