To Hug or Not to Hug…..


Are you a hugger? If you are I think you are in the majority. At one time, at least in my family we only hugged our grandparents. And other relatives if we absolutely had to. We always kissed our parents goodnight, and gave them a light hug, but that was about it. Now, it seems, everyone hugs. And it is not as if this is not a good thing. Hugs portray love, affection, joy, and sometimes just general jubilation.

I am a convert of sorts. I hug now, but generally I do not instigate a hug. But neither do I stand stiff as a board when one is administered. I am, as they say, “getting with the program.” I went to a site I often use to find quotes regarding a topic I am writing about,, and I only found one quote that was a tiny bit sceptical of hugging—and even it was not full out critical. Actress and author Mindy Kaling (of The Mindy Project fame) said:

“You should never have to say hello or goodbye. Even at work sometimes, and I know this is very unpopular, is that if I’m going to work every single day, I don’t think you should have to hug people hello every single day when you come to work. I saw you Monday!”

I am getting over my awkwardness about hugging. But be forewarned that if you hug me and I am not expecting it, I will probably step on your foot, knock your glasses off, or do you some other slight damage. And for this, I am sorry. I am trying to be a better hugger.

Of course, I find hugging comes quite naturally when it comes to my family and now, friends. In fact several of my friends preface their prehug with “I know you don’t like to be hugged but I am going to do it anyway” then they hug me. And I am quite pleased, because I know the hug comes from a generous, warm place. I now like to be hugged—most of the time. But I still feel it should be reserved for those closest to you.

I am not sure why I am not a natural born hugger. Is it more ethnic driven? I don’t know. Perhaps at one time. But now it seems everyone hugs. Once in a while I run into people who are not natural born huggers and I can so empathize with them. We are the ones who stand back a bit and wait our turn for the inevitable hug—but by hanging back we are sometimes perceived as not being friendly. Just so you know, that is not the case at all.

I finally found a site with an article written by a non-hugger—or more appropriately a selective hugger. Grace Jennings-Edquist on the site gives some hugging etiquette advice after first admitting that she does not really like hugging except in the following situations:

1. when you know and like a person
2. when you are at a party of friends
3. when someone is celebrating a new job, birth of a child, an engagement…
4. when someone is in mourning
5. when you have not seen someone who is close to you for a long time

She has a couple of other rules but I did not really identify with them so I am using my journalistic prerogative not to share them. But this is what you huggers need to know—those of us who do not initiate hugs still enjoy them if handed out judiciously.

I have been on the receiving end of criticism for not being an all-out hugger. I have been accused of being a little too “Anglo”; a bit uptight; and not forthcoming. Not often, but often enough to doubt my own sense of warmth. But in my defence, I am someone who is not afraid to share a smile with strangers; to joke with someone who is in line at the bank or grocery store; and to the best of my ability I will help out anyone in need. I am a pretty kind person if I do say so myself and the fact that I am an awkward hugger should not quantify me as lacking in warmth.

I do not mean to sound defensive, but for all those of you out there who are learning to be a hugger, despair not. You will find in me someone who understands your plight. And if you are a hugger—know that you are appreciated, even if we step on your foot, or knock your glasses askew.

To hug or not to hug is not the real question for me. To do no harm when I do hug is the goal.

Are you a natural born hugger. Or, like me, are you still learning?

Published in: on January 11, 2016 at 2:44 pm  Comments (30)  

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30 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I didn’t grow up in a particularly huggy family, but I have learned to love giving and receiving hugs.

  2. Ha! Lou, I hug the people I know and love. I’m not one of those people who just hug everyone I meet, though I know what you mean. I’ve never really thought about it until now. So…I guess I’m a hugger when I FEEL it, know what I mean?

    I’d probably hug you if I met you and if you stepped on my foot, I’d be okay with that.

  3. Ok, I admit, I am a natural born hugger and It’s something that I deal with everyday. I seem to be blessed with innate knowing most of the time whether my huggee is in a position to accept my hug or not and I rely on their body language and our relationship to determine if I do reach out to share a hug. This is a great post dear friend and I understand how you feel and you so eloquently explained the situation to us all. Thank you for sharing! Sending a virtual hug♥

    • Some people are just naturally warm–and you are one of them…..

      • I think you are too! xo

  4. I have morphed into a hugger….family, friends, folks I haven’t seen in awhile…and a kisser on both cheeks too if friends so choose. I love a good hug, so I try to make mine genuine, not a barely there hug. So Lou, next we meet, be prepared for a bear hug and possibly a smacker too!

  5. No non NO

  6. Do you know how relieved this made me feel, not being a natural born hugger myself? Like you, I’m getting better about it but when I was younger, I would miss the timing of it completely and make it awkward. As in, not reciprocate the hug until the other person was just about to release me and then I’d attempt to hug back, except there was now a good five inches between us. Awkward.
    In general, I don’t initiate hugs unless I’m confident enough that the receiver won’t be scared off. When in doubt, I opt to ditch the hug and just smile as widely as I can to show that I’m not being unfriendly, I’m just not a good hugger.

  7. Definitely still learning. I think I’m like Grace; I do find myself hugging only in the situations she provided. Unfortunately, I give very stiff hugs, haha. I can’t remember the last time I gave an “all out” hug! 😦

  8. I think those five criteria are about right. My family was pretty tactile, and I like a hug still. I’m a bit wary of hugging young women, so I let them initiate if they want to.
    I do think there may be another criterion. Somebody may not be in mourning, but they may just have had some bad news or just a bad day at work. Again I’d be judicious in my application of this.

  9. No, no ,no, no ,no….

    You capture the pure awkwardness perfectly here, LouAnn.

  10. My family didn’t hug much, but I am a big hugger now. It is a comfort to me and to those who receive. Hugs are good for the heart and the spirit. It is sharing something without words.

  11. I know exactly what you mean!

  12. I am a medium level hugger I would say. I don’t feel 100% comfortable hugging people, but I do it quite a lot. I hugged a lot of people when we left Costa Rica though because I will truly miss my new friends :).

  13. Your post is interesting, and the comments, too. The degree of comfort level with hugging in this sample of comments is most likely reflective of hugging in the general population.
    One thought: like saying “I love you” almost reflexively sometimes (do we really love everyone), do we sometimes feel compelled to hug because it’s what is done these days?

    • good point–sometime when it is expected–we do it whether we want to or not….

  14. Not a natural born hugger. Also refuse to learn to be a hugger. I’m not trying to be difficult or cold. I’m just trying to be happy with who I am and I say it’s ok if I don’t want strangers touching me. (You can obviously see how unsure I am by how defensive I am. Maybe I’m wrong? Oh dear….)

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