It’s important to be mindful of others’ touch tolerance. Some people’s rules regarding touch may be religious or cultural.
Some people hug freely while others just have a strict hands-off policy under any circumstances and that must be respected.
Have you ever tried to give someone a hug and they flinched? How did it feel? That flinch was a fairly good sign that anything more than a handshake would be an invasion of their personal space.
How irritating it is when you go through the lanes in the markets and have almost all the sellers literally dragging you into their shops. You hear things like “my colour, come and check out your earring,” while they are touching you or trying to pull you in to their shops.
This is always a very uncomfortable situation for any shopper.
We don’t have to wait for a deadly situation like “Ebola” to arise before we realise that this is ethically and hygienically wrong.
Some people may think it’s appropriate to touch you or what you are wearing, be it your hair or clothing because they are offering you a complement alongside.
No dear, this is unacceptable.
You may offer, first of all, a compliment and observe how the person you are complimenting receives it and that will give you a clue on how further you can go e.g. if you say “wow, you’ve got a nice dress on, the fabric looks good” and the person says “Oh! Thank you and smiles in appreciation, you may go further to say” can I feel the texture?”
Then wait for a response like “no problem” , “okay” or “yes” as the case maybe.
It’s also unacceptable to touch or carry people’s kids or pets without the consent of their parents, guardians or owners, unless you are trying to rescue them from danger of any kind, then you don’t need to think twice.
In workplaces, there are distinct boundaries when it comes to touching.
The etiquette rules concerning touch in the workplace are sensibly clear and the only conventional business touch is a handshake. (See previous article on handshake etiquette)
Unless you are in an industry that requires physical contact, such as physician, makeup artist, a massure, hair stylist, or similar profession, it’s a safe choice to keep your hands to yourself.
Most times, a longtime client or contact will become a friend. Greeting each other with a hug might seem acceptable given your established, close relationship. When a professional relationship has evolved to a personal side, and the feeling is mutually relaxed, a friendly hug may be a welcome greeting.
When in doubt, keep your hands to yourself. In general, you can’t go wrong by limiting your physical interaction to a firm handshake. And don’t forget the Etiquette of shaking hands.