Why You Should Reach Out and Touch Someone
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you found a coin, would you give it to a person who approached you and
said it was theirs? Would it make any difference if the person
approaching you touched your arm when they made their request?
for most people, the answers are no . . . and yes! Only 23 percent of
the unsuspecting subjects set up in this experiment by researchers at
the University of Minnesota admitted they had found the money when
asked. But, if the researcher touched the elbow of the subject when
inquiring about the coin, the percentage of those admitting possession
rose to 68 percent—and they often looked embarrassed, with explanations
like “I was just looking around to see who lost the money.”
are programmed to feel closer to someone who’s touched us. The person
who touches also feels more connected. It’s a powerful force and even
momentary touching can create a human bond. A touch on the forearm that
lasts a mere 1/40th of a second can make the receiver not only feel
better but also see the giver as being kinder and warmer. The person
who’s been touched also perceives the environment as being friendlier.
right kind of touch at the right time can even make you money. Research
by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration concludes that
being touched by servers increase the tips that customers leave. At two
informal restaurants, waitresses had assigned to them customers who
were randomly divided into three categories. Some customers were not
touched at all, others were touched once on the shoulder for about one
and a half seconds, and the rest were touched twice on the palm of the
hand for about half a second each. All touches were casually given as
the waitress returned change to their customers at the end of the meal.
In all cases, eye contact was avoided.
results at both restaurants were significant. Customers who weren’t
touched left an average tip of 12%. Tips increased to 14% from those
who were touched on the shoulder, and to 17% from those touched twice
on the hand.
it isn’t only in restaurants that customers respond favorably to touch.
In many commercial settings, casually touching customers has been shown
to increase the time they spend in a store, the amounts they purchase,
and the favorable evaluation of their shopping experience in that
store. It was observed that supermarket customers who had been touched
were more likely to taste and purchase food samples than non-touched
customers. Touch has also been found to increase the number of people
who volunteered to score papers and sign petitions.
after reviewing broadcasts of games from the 2008-09 season,
researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that
good teams tend to be much more hands-on than bad ones. In the study,
which was titled "Tactile Communication, Cooperation and Performance:
An Ethological Study of the NBA," it was found that teams whose players
touched the most often (slaps, hugs, taps or bumps) were more
cooperative, played better and won more games.
a different story in the workplace -- at least for some cultures. In
Anglo Saxon cultures (especially the United States, Australia, and the
United Kingdom) touching work colleagues is far less common than in
some other parts of the world. Marc, my colleague in London said,
"Brits hardly ever touch business colleagues. Some times they might tap
table with a pen close to the person they are connecting with, but
bodily contact is avoided." Jenifer, a professional communicator from
Sydney told me, "Australians would flinch or stiffen at a touch from a
business colleague. Most male executives would be concerned about legal
implications of touching a female in the workplace."
that with an experience I had several years ago when I was booked to
speak at a conference in Venezuela. The meeting planner, whom I knew
solely through email correspondence and telephone conversations, met me
at the Caracas airport. He greeted me with a soft lingering handshake,
and then a hug and a kiss on the cheek. As we walked toward the waiting
car and driver, he put his hand on my shoulder. He sat close to me in
the back seat of the car, and, as we discussed the upcoming program, he
often touched my arm or hand.
you had been there, how would you have evaluated all that contact?
“right” answer, of course, varies depending on which cultural standards
you use when judging, and what those standards reflect about touching
and being touched.
cultural differences in touch frequency showed up in a study where
conversations in outdoor cafes (in Florida, London and San Juan, Puerto
Rico) were observed and the number of times people gave or received
casual touches was counted. A total of 189 touches per hour were
recorded in San Juan, and two per hour in Florida. And in London during
that same hour? None.
touch in the workplace is rare, that doesn't mean it isn't powerful:
Bill is the head of Marketing for a telecommunications company – and a
natural “toucher.” As such, he utilizes an interesting and effective
communication technique. When he speaks, he touches the listener (most
always on the forearm) to add emphasis to key parts of his statements.
Touching ensures that, for a moment, he has someone’s full attention.
Because touch is used most often when we believe strongly in something
(a liar will rarely touch the one he is talking to), Bill’s touching
also subconsciously enhances his credibility.
thought of him when I was coaching Suzanne. Suzanne was the leader of
an Information Technology department – a brilliant “techie”, struggling
to develop better interpersonal communication skills. After watching
Suzanne in one-on-one conversations with various business managers (and
seeing the dismissive way most of the managers treated her) I was
wondering how to help her command their attention. And then I saw it.
In one conversation, Suzanne was so intent on what she saying that she
leaned forward and touched her colleague’s arm. And what a difference
that single touch made. The manager looked up at Suzanne as if seeing
her for the first time. And, more importantly, he began to really
listen to what she was saying.
course I'm not advocating groping or other inappropriate physical
contact -- and some people simply don't like being touched in any way.
But it does seem to me that in our sensitivity to political
correctness, we may have lost a potent way to connect with others.
Sometimes the simple act of touching to show support, encouragement,
agreement, sympathy, interest or gratitude adds the personal warmth to
our business communication that is otherwise lacking.
About the Author
Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.is an international
Keynote speaker on collaborative leadership and the impact of
language in the workplace.
coach to executives to improve their leadership presence and
Leadership blogger for Forbes and author of "The Silent Language of
Leaders: How Body Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead.”
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com Authors Google+
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