The Role of Touch in Business


This post of part of a series sponsored by Pinchot. Read more here

Business-Hug-Kathleen-600x450By Gerod Rody

The handshake is a fixture in the business world, whether establishing new contacts or closing a deal.

Likewise, the pat on the shoulder has been a gesture of professional affirmation for years, though more recently it’s gone out-of-vogue as patronizing. These and other forms of touch are a valuable part of non-verbal business communication, but we at Pinchot believe that there are even deeper ways to engage. Enter the hug.

Scientists agree that touch is an essential human need (especially for the workplace), and while the handshake is nice and all, it doesn’t function in quite the same way as a mutually respectful embrace. According to one researcher, “Hugs have positive impacts on self-esteem, relationships and upon the body’s ability to cope with stress.”

A business hug is the next level of connection, sharing vulnerability and mutual respect in a non-threatening embrace. Not as foreign as the European double-kiss, or as dubious as the “good game” butt pat, the hug is for many a “just right” balance of care and respect. Many at Pinchot count the hug as a key part of their community experience, and something they take with them outside the Pinchot network. Some even cite the hug as a factor in improved confidence, stronger relationships with coworkers and deeper connections in building a solid business network.

Business-Hug-OSR-600x450 Business pros need hugs too!

Here are some appropriate business hug scenarios:

While never a requirement, a hug can be a powerful way to connect with partners and colleagues. We make sure that our students know to always keep the hug trump card in their back pocket, should the business-appropriate moment arise.

Gerod Rody is Director of Marketing for Pinchot University.

Pinchot University

Pinchot, a university for the common good, is a pioneer in sustainable business and transformational leadership. Housed under Pinchot are both the Bainbridge Graduate Institute and Organizational Systems Renewal schools as well as the Pinchot Edge school of professional development and Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship.A recognized leader in building collaborative learning environments, Pinchot offers hybrid format programs with robust digital learning and campuses in Seattle and Bainbridge Island, WA. Pinchot builds on the intellectual capacity of its home region to shape change agents, from startup entrepreneurs to leaders of the world’s largest organizations, who drive a conversation committed to the common good.

2 responses

  1. I learned that sometimes just plain hugging is even not enough. Deva Premal, who is known world wide as a chanter of ancient Indian mantras, taught me the medicine hug. You hug someone long enough for both people to feel each other’s hearts beating, which when done typically quite naturally brings forth a huge sigh for each person. It literally harmonizes our hearts and all the talking in the world can never get us this close… I found it to immediately calm tensions between people, and a sense of well-being and trust to be realized.

  2. I love this, Gerod! Thanks for speaking out about a subject that really makes a difference. I now work in a big corporation, and despite the fact that our work is all about helping people and caring, hugs are taboo except among same-level co-workers who know each other well. It’s cold. I love hugs. And my next frontier in business is to use the word “love” as often as possible. If your hearts aren’t in our work, what are we doing there?

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