During the holidays, because I’m out and about socializing, I am more aware of people touching me. What is the appropriate touch back? My southern friend is always very chummy in a cozy way, but I’m not used to chatting in such a physically tight manner arm and arm. And yet I find it warming. When greeting most friends, when we approach I’m not sure if we’re both aiming a kiss toward a cheek or their lips.
–SR, Brooklyn, NY
About kissing and what you need to know about kissing and touching, but not the hug.
It is a common social dilemma. With strangers, the largest study ever conducted shows it is best to stick to a handshake, because most people have a deep reluctance to being touched by a stranger anywhere but on their hands.
- An example of an exception would be meeting the in-laws for the first time. You’ve heard about them and they’ve been in your life even though you’ve never met in the flesh.
Yes, it is de rigueur to greet friends and acquaintances with a kiss one cheek or both, but you can always stretch out your hand to grasp their arm to break the forward advance in the ‘arm hold’ maneuver before quickly feigning the onset of a cold.
Then there is the brush of the cheek kiss where you can get away with barely touching the cheek of the other person’s cheek to yours, even though your lips are puckered for a kiss. More friendly than the air kiss or blown kiss from across the room which can mean, ‘Catch you later,’ the cheek brush is warmer than both.
We interpret touch depending on the circumstance of the relationship. The same kiss given by a relative is perceived and felt differently than a kiss from a suitor.
Touching is of course crucial in human relationships as we see by watching apes and monkeys grooming each other.
Keep in mind that the age and location may be a factor in whether two people shake hands or kiss upon greeting.
Needless to say, a glass or two of wine may soften the heart of the staunchest curmudgeon.
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Accepting A Compliment