Touch. Appropriate touch, that is.

I was reminded of the importance of ‘touch’ during a recent training session for volunteer visits to hospital patients. The social worker talked about “touch hunger” – many patients don’t get touched, they just get poked and blood pressured.

Her discussion centered around healthy touching. First you ask patients if it’s ok to touch them. If yes, then you can touch their arm, or hand, or even the top of their head. (I love getting my hair shampooed when I get a haircut.)

How does that impact you in your professional setting?

Ever been the recipient of a wimpy handshake?

Appropriate and “healthy touching” in the business world centers on the firm handshake. If you want to make a strong first impression and leave a lasting positive impression – be a firm handshaker! That means the web of your hand, the area between your thumb and forefinger touches the web of your recipient’s hand. Then you grasp her hand with some oomph – not too forcefully – you don’t want to sling her over your head – and not too softly – that makes you appear weak.

This is unisex advice. Some of my male clients are reticent to give a female a strong handshake. Women want a firm handshake.

One caveat: if the person you are about to shake hands with is frail, has arthritis, or some other physical issue, use your common sense.

Dr. James Lynch, professor at Baltimore’s University of Maryland School of Medicine conducts studies on touch and its impact upon the body. “Physical contact has very dramatic effects upon psychological health,” he says. “It lowers blood pressure. It relaxes you.”

Professionally, be a firm handshaker. Personally, hug your kids, kiss your partner, embrace your friends.

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