How to Hug
Boyfriendy girlfriendy hugs, where it's not creepy if you sniff the other person's hair, are all very well, but casual platonic hugs in a social context are a totally different animal. In the first 15 minutes of any social event, you learn that some people like to hug, and some prefer to wave dorkily from behind a potted plant and then spill their drink on their feet.
If you are a hugger who hugs everyone from the mailman to your mom with impunity and finesse, then this post is not for you. Go away and hug someone. If, on the other hand, you prepare for a hug as you would for a marathon sporting event ("Oh, we're hugging? Hold on, let me take off my jewellery and put on some sensible shoes!") or have ever accidentally bitten someone because you hugged them with your mouth open, then this post IS for you, and you should read it. There are three simple ways you can adjust your hugging technique, and you'll never again have to awkwardly wipe your saliva off an acquaintance's neck.
The way a hug normally works is that one of your arms goes up, and the other arm goes down, and the corresponding arms on the other person go in the opposite directions, and you both step in and encircle each other with your arms, and a good time is had by all.
How to do it badly: The way a hug works for people who are chronically incapable of normal social interactions is, one of your hug-buddy's arms goes up, and your corresponding arm also goes up, and then you bang your heads together, and you forget about your other arm until it's too late, and then you try to raise it and accidentally punch her in the boob, or your bracelets get tangled in his bow-tie, and you also manage to step on both his feet and kick him in the shins, all at the same time.
How to do it better: According to science, 70-90% of people are right handed.This means that 70-90% of people will raise their right arm and lower their left arm in preparation for a hug. Do the same thing, and you will be able to successfully hug 70-90% of the world. If you are left-handed and this feels unnatural, well, you'll just have to put in a little extra effort, or only ever hug other lefties. Likewise, if you're right-handed and go to hug a lefty, be prepared for some accidental boob-punching.
Avoid stepping on your hug-buddy's feet by standing just a little further away and leaning into the hug. Do not stand too far away, however, as you will look quite strange.
How to do it badly: There are two ways you can fail at hug-velocity. The first is by having no velocity. You know when you pick up an insect and it freezes because it thinks you can't see it if it's not moving? Well that doesn't work for bugs, and it won't work for you. Going limp and waiting for it to stop is not an appropriate reaction to being hugged.
On the other hand, sheer nervousness about the impending hug may cause you to overcompensate and move in too quickly, so instead of the affectionate cuddle you were aiming for, you body-slam your friend into the buffet table.
Neither of these are good.
How to do it better: We're looking for a happy medium in velocity here, somewhere between "hippo on a mission" and "fence post." If you're getting out your Hugging Helmet and taking a run-up, you're doing it wrong. You should approach your intended target at a walking pace. Make sure you come to a complete stop before commencing a hug. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, and apply the skills you learned in the first example—right arm up, left arm down, and lean but not too much!
How to do it badly: Someone tries to hug you, and you headbutt her in the solar plexus instead. You are so mortified you try to make up for it by giving her an extra-long hug with a bonus back rub. Forty minutes later, she politely asks you to get out of her house, please.
How to do it better: A casual hug should last no longer than the count of one-Mississippi-two-Mississippi. If you're going to add anything fancy like air kissing or shoulder slaps, you should factor it into this time period, and make sure you know your audience. Smacking your lips in your football teammate's ear might not go down so well, and your BFF will not be thrilled if you leave bright red hand prints on her back after she spent all that money on a strapless dress.
Have you ever had a hug go wrong? What happened?
Related Post: What Your Hugging Style Says About You