I am a hugger. I used to embrace most people I met with a hug. With social distancing in place, I find it hard to restrain myself. (Maybe those of you who don’t like hugs are secretly loving the change?)
We don’t see as many handshakes in business meetings; we don’t see as many construction workers patting their colleagues on the back; and we don’t see as many bartenders or wait staff giving each other high fives during a busy shift.
A recent article in The Economist reminded us that the pandemic has been an exercise in subtraction and that ‘touch’—one of our basic human needs—is now absent in many social settings, ‘…and then there are the smaller things that are missing. To stop the spread of Covid-19 people have forsaken the handshakes, pats, squeezes and strokes that warm daily interactions’.
As simple as it may sound, the human touch has a way of stimulating fibres that light up parts of the brain responsible for pleasure thus releasing a cocktail of hormones including dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin that soothes anxiety and make us feel happier.
However, the absence of touch is an opportunity to use our words more intentionally in our internal and external relationships. We can be more meaningful and show warmth through language where before it may have only been shown and felt subtly through touch. Warm words with connotations of kindness and familiarity such as ‘good to see you again’, ‘looking forward to seeing you back here soon’ or ‘I love working with you’ are significant.
Changes to society are such that words matter more than they used to. There are many opportunities to use warm words, for example:
- Increased interactions with work colleagues on a video conference with the camera off.
- Increased customer interactions over the telephone.
You have the power to impact people greatly and positively with your words. In the absence of a hug, handshake or a pat on the back, our gift of language is most important.
Use words wisely and warmly