After all the interest in the Holding Hands article, we decided to follow up with this comprehensive guide on hugs (kisses will come later).
Hugging is a life skill. You can learn to do it right and enjoy some great moments, or you can be lazy and feel awkward every time the situation arises. Today’s lesson covers the hugging techniques that will put you on the path to huggie goodness. It’s time to stop behaving in a hugger-mugger sort of way and start getting the job done.
Pressure and Arms
As Orson Scott Card humorously pointed out, “read the dictionary definition of the topic word [and] you will be well on the way toward giving a good old-fashioned lousy sacrament meeting talk.” In the spirit of bad talks, here is Webster’s definition of hug, “to press tightly especially in the arms.” Card is right, that definition isn’t very helpful — unless you’re surprised to learn hugging is typically done with the arms.
While pressure and arms are essential to hugs, you need to know more than what the dictionary offers. You need to know when it’s appropriate to hug someone, and what kind of squeeze to give the person. These factors depend largely on individual preferences and culture norms. But there are some rules.
The Side Hug
The side hug is that awkward embrace in which the people hugging end up side-by-side, with each person lending just one and a half arms to the hug.
It says to the person you’re hugging, “I can’t stomach the thought of actually hugging you,” or “I am scared of making too much physical contact with you.” The irony of the side hug is that if you’re trying to avoid too much physical contact you’ve failed because it often requires more pressing of the flesh to get the job done than a front hug.
Finally, the side hug leaves the party to the half-hug wondering if you’re going to try to maneuver into a full hug. Awkward pauses are never a good thing during hugs.
You might give this kind of hug to your kid sister or grandma, but really it’s a lame hug. Never ever use it on dates.
This is the hug guys typically give each other. The hug starts like a normal hug but then the two people hugging give each other at least three or four good thumps on the back. It makes the guys feel manly, or something. The slaps on the back are short hand for, “I am excited to see you, wait why are we hugging?” and, “we’re friends now but those thumps could just as easily be deadly blows.”
As a missionary you probably gave hundreds of back slapping hugs to your companions, your mission president and well I guess that’s it. It feels natural and comfortable to you, which is why this type of hug is so dangerous. You may be tempted to use it in your dating life. Do not, give your date or significant other the back slap. For one thing you shouldn’t hit girls, but most importantly your lady friend will think you’re weird. Save this one for your pals.
The Limp Rag
Just like the dead fish handshake, the limp rag hug can be just as awkward. This hug violates Webster’s definitional requirement of “pressing tightly.” The person hugging or being hugged lets their body go limp and doesn’t give any discernible squeeze back. It says to the person you’re hugging: “drop dead,” “yuck,” or “you scare me.” When I was a new missionary, a drunken investigator suddenly latched on to me for a hug. I resorted to the limp rag, which worked in getting her to stop but I found out later offended her (I am surprised she remembered). But the point is your date will be equally offended.
The Bone Crusher
The opposite of the limp rag, the bone crusher is a serious threat to the bodily integrity of the person you’re hugging. The person delivering the hug exerts too much pressure causing an unpleasant sensation in the person being hugged. It also makes girls uncomfortable since they assume (probably rightfully so) that you’re attempting to invade their personal space. Leave the wrestling moves and your tentacles for the mat and ease up on the pressure if you want to be invited to hang out again.
The Optimal Hug
Do you feel like you’re reading the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? The best hug and the one you can give to anyone is the hug where you square up and give the person a gentle squeeze, being sure to apply just the right amount of pressure.
The key is to land somewhere between the limp rag and the bone crusher. The more you like the person (and if the feeling is mutual) the more pressure you can add. You can also increase the duration of the hug depending upon the nature of the relationship.
Let’s say you’re meeting your fiancé’s dearest childhood friend and it becomes obvious that you’ll be hugging as you’re introduced. Don’t go for the side hug, don’t pat her on the back. Step up to the plate and give her a hug. The key is to feel for that optimal pressure point and then to release. This will be a very quick hug.
What about a first date? Same drill. Go for the direct hug but this time let it linger for just a split second longer than the previous example.
For the new RM this will be hard to get right. It isn’t something that is formulaic. You have to pay attention to complex body language and have a good sense of time and proportion. But, but…yes, this means you might blow it a couple of times when you go for that hug. That is why you need to practice and not just on your teddy bear.
Finally, remember, just like holding hands, hugging is about trust. The more trust you have the longer and firmer the hug can be.
Focus on the correct pressure and duration. Hugging on the first date is fine. Do we give side hugs, back slaps, limp rags, or bone crushers? No, only in special situations. Instead square up and give the person a hug.
Your assignment for this weekend: go on a date and hug your date — don’t tell them it’s homework (although I suppose that could be some sort of cheesy pick-up line). Let us know how it goes.