The Significance of Touch
You are in your local mall on a Saturday morning where a bustling crowd of people are beginning their weekend shopping. A young couple walks ahead of you, hands clasped tightly as the girl giggles and buries her face into the shoulder of her partner.
A toddler sits on a bench with his mother, devouring each pretzel piece as she hands them to him. As you walk past, his brow furrows in distress as he turns to his mother for reassurance. Reaching out a hand, she grabs his, squeezes lightly, and releases. Seemingly satisfied, the toddler returns to the soggy remains of pretzel in his other hand.
An elderly couple can be seen in a nearby boutique. The elderly lady soothingly rests her hand on her husbands arms as he angrily argues we store clerk, slamming his hand down on the counter and aggressively rubbing his forehead.
Our ability to communicate non-verbally is remarkable and it is essential to the human experience.
An article by Psychology Today states that "seemingly insignificant touches yield bigger tips for waitresses, that people shop and buy more if they're touched by a store greeter, and that strangers are more likely to help someone if a touch accompanies the request."
It is studies like this that remind us we are social beings. Whether it's being touched by somebody (handshake, pat on the back, holding hands, kissing, etc), or us touching ourselves (flipping hair, massaging forehead, rubbing hands , stroking our neck, etc), we communicate through physical touch.
We introduce ourselves through touch. We bond with others through touch. We touch when we love and sometimes we touch when we hate. Mothers touch their child to soothe them, fathers touch their child to guide them. We reach out and touch the ones who are grieving and to brace ourselves when we are laughing.
Using appropriate physical touch is crucial for connecting with others, and it is something that we should not shy away from. In fact, I train our greeting ministry to actively seek opportunities where they can touch the people walking in on Sunday morning. Shake someone's hand. Give out hugs. High-five the kiddos. Here is why I think touch is so important:
- It is assuring. There are many broken people that walk into church buildings. Some are coming to recharge, while others don't know where else to turn. Recognizing people through physical touch can be one of the most comforting motions we can make.
- It builds trust. Physical touch shows a person you are not afraid to meet them where they are. It breaks down barriers before anybody has a chance to build them up. Touching someone else is a vulnerable motion that allows you to connect with people on a deeper level.
- It does not lie. Alongside breaking down barriers, physical touch holds nothing back. You can feel the passion in a hug and the grip of a hand. Many people can hide their emotions behind a mask, but when it comes to touch there is little one can do to hide. Through physical touch we open ourselves up and we seek to connect.
The significance of touch relies on its power to communicate without using words. We learn this as children, yet we have begun to shy away from it as we progress. Do not be apprehensive to touch others. As long as the touch is proper and relevant, it holds the power to speak without using words.