Tuesday, April 09, 2002

A lot of people embrace hugging

New city manager has brought the affectionate greeting into the limelight

By Mike Pulfer mpulfer@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Humanity, we have decided, includes two sub-types: People who hug and people who don't. Valerie Lemmie, in case you haven't noticed, hugs.

Valerie Lemmie hugs Mayor Charlie Luken at her swearing-in ceremony.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        Since she officially settled in a week ago as Cincinnati city manager, we have seen her hugging and hugging and hugging.

        Not that there's anything wrong with hugging, unless you're a company's human resources director. They don't hug and don't want anyone else to hug either.

        Work rules aside, some people just aren't comfortable with hugging.

        “I shook her hand,” at a Thursday reception, says Karla Irvine, executive director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME).

        “I'm from the Northeast, and we don't do that there,” she said. “I guess I'm learning.”

        Bengals owner Mike Brown is not a hugger.

        If the question is to hug or not to hug, “I guess you'd have to put me in the no category,” he says.

  There are good hugs and bad hugs. The ones that feel right and the ones that don't.
  Here are some of the factors that help determine whether a hug is appropriate, says Deborah Pearce, communication arts instructor at Xavier University.
  • Part(s) of the body being touched.
  • Duration of the hug.
  • Pressure applied.
  • Presence or absence of other people.
  • Setting.
  • Relationship between hugger and huggee.
  “How people think about these key elements... determines whether the hug is welcome or an uncomfortable experience,” Ms. Pearce says.
        Judge Mark Painter of the Ohio First District Court of Appeals readily admits hugs aren't for him: “I am certainly not a hugger, probably because I'm not a very warm person. I always prefer to shake hands, because that's the way I grew up.”

        University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins, on the other hand, lives up to his name, according to a school spokesman.

        “With a name shortened to Huggs, it would only seem natural that he is a hugger,” says Tom Hathaway, an observer and media relations specialist. “Fans who witness the Senior Day ceremonies or awards banquets are well aware of the hugs he gives his players, their families, etc.”

        One of the city's most confirmed huggers — a believer in hugging and huggability — is Lt. Col. Ron Twitty, assistant Cincinnati police chief.

        “I'm one of them,” he chuckles. “Everybody knows I'm a hugging guy ... I've always done it. It just went along with treating people with respect.

        “It's basically a warm greeting,” he says. “What greater ice breaker?”

        “Sometimes ... instead of a handshake, people will use a hug,” says Deborah Pearce, communication arts instructor at Xavier University, Evanston. “It's not unusual to see in professional settings.”

  Hugging takes many forms. These are some of them, according to Kathleen Keating, author of The Hug Therapy Book.
  A-frame: Only tops of bodies meet.
  Bear hug. Strong, powerful, enveloping squeeze, usually by one person larger than the other.
  Cheek hug: Tender, gentle hug, with hand on shoulder.
  Sandwich hug: For three, as with parents and a child.
  Grabber-squeezer: Hurry-up hug, by partners, in the kitchen or workshop.
  Group hug: Classmates, support groups. Or Mary Tyler Moore Show cast in final episode.
  Side-to-side: While walking.
  Back to front: Usually domestic partners, or co-worker on an assembly line.
  Heart-centered: Full-body contact; heads touching.
  Custom-tailored: Basic hug, with your own twist.
        Women, she says, are more willing to hug than men. Adolescents are more willing to hug than adults.

        “It's very much a cultural rule.”

        Hugging is acceptable, she says, “as long as it is considered appropriate to the person to whom it is extended.”

        “Be certain you have permission before giving a hug,” writes Kathleen Keating, a Canadian nurse and health counselor and author of The Hug Therapy Book (Compcare Publications; $7).

        “They'll let you know,” says Lt. Col. Twitty. “If they back up or put a hand up ... If you pay attention, you can tell.

        “I'd say 99 percent of the time, they hug you right back ... they feel tickled to death you want to hug them.”

        Ms. Keating says there are many benefits to hugging. Among them, it:

        • Feels good.

        • Dispels loneliness.

        • Helps overcome fear.

        • Opens doors to feelings.

        • Builds self-esteem.

        • Fosters altruism.

        • Slows aging.

        • Helps curb appetite.

        “Feelings that bring on a hug — affection, sympathy, caring, just plain joy — can happen at any time of day,” the author says. “So can hugging situations.”

        Cincinnati City Council member David Crowley, who says, “I'm definitely a hugger,” sees many opportunities for hugs at Cincinnati City Hall.

        Joking, he said, “I think we should appoint an official hugger on every floor.”

        The Lemmie hug, he says, is genuine.

        “It's just the way she is ... someone who isn't afraid to reach out and touch people,” he says.

        “I think it's great. It's loosening everybody up.”

        Hugging can be strategic, Ms. Pearce says.

        “Some kinds of touching often lead to compliance,” she says. “When a server gently touches the arm of a client, maybe the tip is bigger.

        “People tend to cooperate with us more when lightly touched on the arm,” she says. “People who touch frequently and appropriately have learned the skill of compliance gaining.”

        Also, in most cases, she says, people will tend to like you more quickly if you touch.

        But, unless you work at Cincinnati City Hall, don't expect a lot of hug action at the office. There's just not a lot of it going around.

        “Because of sexual harassment training, most people tend to err on the side of caution,” Ms. Pearce says.

        They say hello with their hands in their pockets.


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