The Hug Initiation Protocol

When I read Steve Pavlina's blog post Just Frakkin Hug Me, I was inspired. I like hugs! Why couldn't I just hug people more often instead of being all shy and inhibited?

Well, for one, I'm shy and inhibited. Also, hugs are unusual, at least among guys, and so people might read more into my actions than I really intend. But mostly, I just don't know how to go about it in the first place. How do you give someone a hug, especially if they're not used to it?

So naturally, I did some research, and put together this handy Hug Initiation Protocol that breaks the process down into clear, concrete steps. You might think that this is a bit much, but socially awkward nerds like me need all the help we can get. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. ;) You tell me.

Hug Initiation Protocol

1. Make eye contact with your intended hug recipient.

2. Stand still. Do not rush at your intended hug recipient.

3. Hold your arms out, in front or to the side, palms open and up, in an inviting gesture that clearly signals your intent to hug.

4. Keep a neutral or positive facial expression. Do not scowl at your intended hug recipient, unless you are a little kid who looks particularly cute and huggable while scowling.

5. If your intended hug recipient does not respond, you may either abort your hug attempt or verbally offer a hug in case your intended hug recipient did not recognize your intent to hug.

6. If your intended hug recipient responds by hugging you, then congratulations! You have successfully initiated a hug.

7. Attempt to sustain the hug for at least one full inhalation and exhalation of breath. A quick hug indicates that you are hugging out of a sense of obligation rather than a sincere desire to connect.

8. But if your hug recipient attempts to disengage, you must respond with immediate disengagement as well.

9. While hugging, do not rub or pat your hug recipient on the back. Patting is a sign of insecurity, and rubbing is just awkward. Don't do it.

10. That's it!

Yes, I know I'm silly. :p

Have fun putting it into practice. And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving today! :)


zane.tian said...

I like your hugging guide - it's cute. What do you think about hugging distance, i.e. How far out can you be to initiate? I was practicing your protocol for fun with Vicky and it seemed like more than 4-5 feet was too much - you sort of transfer the responsibility of walking up close to your hug recipient.

I didn't receive any hugs as a kid from my parents and never saw them hug, so hugging was sort of alien to me when I first encountered it. But over the last year in school, I've realized that I am actually a very huggy person - I guess there are a lot of girls and thus a lot more hugging than usual, so I got a lot of hug-exposure. But being shy, I am terrible at initiating them, and feel awkward and out of place when I think about hugging someone. I am always envious when other people share hugs that I'm too afraid to initiate.

I was inspired by Steve's post too, especially how "the vast majority of people would absolutely love to receive more hugs". His speedhugging post was also good read; I was really amused by case studies =P

I think right now, I only initiate hugs with people I know really well. I had an awkward hug initiation moment a few months ago when 2 people came to visit - a good friend of mine, and someone I didn't know well. I gave my friend a big hug, and then really awkwardly extended my hand... and panicked. I ended up patting the other guy on the back. I should have just hugged him. :facepalm:

It would be cool to see a guide on "socially acceptable time elapsed between hugs". I've always thought that hugs were only reserved for special occasions, e.g. you haven't seen each other for a long time, someone's having a terrible day, your team just scored a goal, etc. But what about friends who see each other in the halls every day? It seems like hugs shouldn't be that frequent, but I see hugs going off a lot in school.

axcho said...

Thanks for stopping by - I didn't know you followed my blog! It's good to hear from you. :) Actually, a while back I had been meaning to get back in touch with you but... er, embarrassingly, I got busy and forgot about it. Terrible, I know. Sorry. :p Still, no time like the present, right?

That is a very good question about hugging distance. Somehow I never thought about this, but I think you're right - any more than four or five feet would be too much. Because you want it to be easy and natural for your intended hug recipient to respond. Maybe a good guideline would be that you should be close enough that you could touch each others' hands if you both reached out.

Maybe I should add that as an additional first step?

And wow, I'm amazed that you never grew up with hugs as a kid - I'm glad you survived! And glad that you have begun to realize your true nature as a huggy person. ;) I know my family has always been very huggy, even compared to other families, and I can appreciate now having a strong male role model in my dad when it comes to hugging. :p

And yep, for me this new step is all about realizing that people do like hugs and are generally just too inhibited and concerned about sending the wrong social signals (including me). Allowing myself to believe that this is what people really want (while also allowing for the possibility that they, contrarily, actually don't want a hug) is what spurs me to begin pushing the edges of my habits and comfort zone to try to initiate hugs more often.

So far I've only initiated hugs with people I know, but have not necessarily hugged before, especially people who might really enjoy a hug but would never ask for one from me for fear of disturbing the cold, introverted shell of my personality. ;)

Mainly I'm trying to integrate the habit of, "When in doubt, hug." Or even, "When in doubt, shake hands." Because that's another legitimate form, another one I'm trying to get more proactive about.

Trying to say anything about "socially acceptable" time between hugs is tough, because "socially acceptable" is so subjective and dependent on who you're talking about. I don't think "socially acceptable" is really what matters. I see this as a matter of changing what is "socially acceptable" to be more in line with what is truly fulfilling.

So, thanks for the thoughtful comment, and I look forward to catching up sometime! :)