H.E.A.R.T.

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I have always asked for consent before I hug people. That used to be kind of weird, but the pandemic changed the way we handle personal boundaries, and in this post-pandemic moment, it feels like we all need to learn to navigate consent for casual expressions of physical affection like hugging. Not everyone is accustomed to this, though, and it's leading to some awkwardness. I want to talk to psychologists about how to ask for hugs or get consent to hug someone without making it weird.

Date: February 8, 2022

Damali was live in NBC Connecticut. Click here to watch the recorded interview.

What is a good way to ask someone if you can hug them? 

The ask should be direct and clear and not hidden in an analogy or other indirect form of communication.  Say, “What is your comfort level?  Are we hugging – yes, no or not now?”  With those clear options, the person you want to hug can answer in the manner that best fits their comfort level.  Upon receiving their answer, depending on what they say, either hug or move on in the conversation.

What’s a good way to say “no,” without hurting someone’s feelings? 

Try to provide an honest answer.  “No” is a complete statement and does not require an explanation.  That being said, there may be some people that you want to provide more information too. Say how you feel – in a polite way- “I am not comfortable with physical contact at the moment. It is not personal. I am just not there yet (or- I have never been a hugger).”  Make clear, short statements and, if appropriate and true, say if you are disappointed that you cannot hug the person at that moment.

How do we deal with the inevitable awkwardness of navigating these social moments?

Lean into the awkwardness and label it in order to move on. In my opinion, just ignoring the awkwardness and leaving people to wonder if there is more to the situation is risky.  Acknowledge that it was an awkward moment and move forward. If you can weave in humor, then try that. Say something like, “Sorry, I have already reached my one hug quota for the month.”

Some people will probably be uncomfortable with things like
hugging for a while. How do we treat them with care? 

You have to respect a person’s boundaries and give them grace.  Remember that this is not personal and not about you (if you are on the “no” end of a hug request).  Everyone has their own comfort level and  if you see it from that point of view, then you should not feel offended by their boundaries.

If we are those people, how do we ease back into being physically
affectionate with others? 

Take things one day at a time and realize that things may not go exactly back to the way things were before the world had to grapple with a profoundly impactful global pandemic. Take the time that you need and put your needs, self care and comfort at the forefront.

Breakthrough ADR’s framework for having honest conversations without it leading to conflict is the acronym HEART.

H – Hone in on the key points. Being honest does not require you to tell every detail or express all of your feelings.  Rather, think about the truth that you want to share and highlight the key points. Write a high level overview of what you want to say and provide necessary context. See if there are common themes that you can combine into broad categories and then, use an “I feel” statement. For example, “I feel like we should work on our communication because we have had some misunderstandings lately and it is important to me that we are on the same page” or “I took your shoes the other day and I feel bad about it. I wanted to look good and love your style.”  Or, to take present a more serious example, “I do not feel comfortable meeting up with you in-person until you are vaccinated because I am worried about coronavirus variants”
 
E – Encourage a conversation and collaboration.  An honest conversation should be a dialogue not a monologue. Do not prepare a monologue in which you state everything that you want to say with the hopes of the outcome of the conversation being quiet acquiescence to your point of view.  That is typically not the case.  Many honest chats catch people off guard.  The person presenting the situation has had a chance to think and prepare what they want to say. The listener may be reacting or responding on the spot. Where I see many people go wrong in an honest conversation is when they want to present a problem and have no suggestion for the solution or they present a solution that is very one-sided.  In order to reach an outcome that is likely to result in changed behavior, the people involved should collaborate and come up with a joint solution.
 
A – Accept what you can and cannot control. The flow and outcome of the conversation may or may not go as planned.  That is OK. Do not keep belaboring a point if it is clearly not going over well. Make your point and move on. Not all attempts to be honest have to have a happy ending.
 
R –  Respect the other person’s point of view regarding the truth.  While it may feel good for you to tell the truth and get something that is bothering you off of your chest, realize that the other person may be hurt by the truth.  A healthy amount of empathy and compassion along with the truth may be necessary.  It is also important to extend grace to people because you may not be aware of what they are dealing with or what is going on in the background of their lives.
 
T- Timing is everything. While this article is about National Honesty Day, only you can determine if now is the right time to be honest about whatever is on your mind. You have to make some preliminary determinations before having the conversation. Is now the right time? Are you the right person to have this conversation? Should this happen over phone, social media, text, video chat or in-person? Trust your instincts with this. Think about whether the timing and circumstances would be right if you were the one being told the truth.
 
At the end of the day, you have to think about what feels right to you to be authentically you and live your truth… and that takes HEART!
Damali Peterman

Damali Peterman

Damali Peterman, Esq., is the Founder, CEO and Chief Conflict Resolver of Breakthrough ADR LLC. Damali has extensive experience in corporate law, mediation, negotiation, and conflict resolution. She is a highly sought after mediator and trainer for Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, government entities, nonprofits and small businesses.

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About Breakthrough ADR

BREAKTHROUGHADR partners with you to identify the best paths to achieving your goals. Whether you need help reaching agreement with another party or giving your partners, employees or students the tools needed to navigate and resolve conflicts, BREAKTHROUGHADR will work with you to help you accomplish your objectives and find your breakthrough.

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