The Hug – the killer app of acknowledgments

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book on “The Practice of Acknowledgments”. 

Hugs are to acknowledgments what wireless is to the internet.  Nothing quite says I see you and your being around means a lot to me than a hug.  As part of the human need to belong, to be acknowledged, we all need to be touched.  (Sniff.  Just hold me.) 

I don’t recommend this in the paranoid and litigious American workplace environment, but among your friends and loved ones, hug EVERYBODY. 

Hugs come in all configurations and intensities.  I differentiate between the hugger – the person initiating the hug – and the huggee – the person being hugged. Here are a few common ones:

The overhand where the hugger comes in with at least one arm over the shoulder of the shorter hugee. 

The underhand where the hugger goes in with both arms under the arms of the usually taller hugee.

The shoulder touch where an uncomfortable hugger only really has body contact with an equally uncomfortable huggee with the edge of one shoulder and his arms.  Bodies are usually angled out so that torso and hips are not touching.

The full court press where the hugger presses the full length of his/her body against the body of the huggee.  This is almost always turns into a linger.  Only practiced by the uninhibited.

The linger where both hugger and huggee remain in the warm embrace of the hug for three seconds or more.  Longer than seven seconds, you’re not hugging anymore so get a room.

What I like about hugs is that even when executed with horrific awkwardness, they still convey a message of “I love you, I miss you, I love having you in my life.”  They always tell a story about the condition of a relationship.

If your acknowledgment practice consisted primarily of hugging you would be doing very well indeed.   The pure loving energy a hug conveys is portrayed very well in the 2007 “Free hugs” campaign by BETC Euro RSCG (see below).  I’m committed to spontaneous combustible hugging whenever people meet, so please share any insights, information, stories or new categories of hugs that you have.  Will greatly appreciate it.





Just in case “killer app” is unfamiliar to you, app is short for application and it is a term often used to describe a very helpful and effective application to address some issue.  Email was once called the “killer app” of the internet for example.

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.