More people seem to be touching each other these days. The expression of gentle touching on the arms or elbow seems to reflect kind engagement. A thoughtful and warm reflection of regard for another person. A good touch of the right kind can be a great relief and an encouragement towards a lighter mood. In some cases, it is instinctive and represents solid confirmation of trust and certainty of relationship.
All very good things. Many of us have a sense when others may receive well a kind touch or gentle gesture. Who would refuse such noble sentiments?
One time I was working at the corporate office of a billion dollar corporation. The story I am about to tell is familiar to anyone who has worked in corporate and office settings. You come in one day, you get an email or a heads up that required corporate training has to be completed. Afterwards, you prepare yourself to engage with the material and learn about regulations and policy.
Some of the policies may deal with avoiding the appearance of impropriety. Not accepting gifts from third-party vendors who work with you. Making sure you avoid compromising the impartiality and standing of the company. If you are involved with purchasing decisions, stay away from any situation that could be misconstrued as either bribery, corruption, or price-fixing. Over the course of a corporate career, you learn things like that and you start acting on such rules as instinct.
Without question, your behaviors in a professional situation may be out of alignment with those not prepared in the same way.
In the past, such information was either distributed in written documents or verbally stated at group meetings. Later, they were delivered interactively through video (CBT or, computer based training) followed by tests in which you had to prove reception and retention of the material. I was never directly involved in international sales or purchasing operations. Even still, while I realized I would never have to invoke such policies due to the nature of my role, it was important to be cognizant of the governing policies. Nevertheless, everyone was expected to understand these things since a civil fine could emerge from anyone, anywhere, regardless of role. An example may involve doing something imprudent such as speaking to the press without thinking to refer inquiries to the public relations office.
Other policies were much more day-to-day. They involved things like avoiding situations that could lead to accusations of harassment. Such training were quite detailed in challenging a person’s understanding of what kinds of words, expressions, and behaviors could create problems with others. The goal of that training was to condition us in ways of expressing ourselves that would create the least amount of harm. Call is prudent preparation to get the whole team on the same page in terms of professional behaviors.
That last type of training was important to me because I have seen many top leaders who delivered great results eliminated in the due course of such situations. These were leaders I looked up to, but history was changed because of their decisions on this matter. It is an issue that claims many. Rather than explicitly think about how to avoid it, the better option is to form the right habits.
Today, people seem to touch each other more and they may be unaware of the indirect danger that lurks from what appears to be an innocent act. It primarily stems from a lack of training or issues of upbringing. Whatever the source, habits are formed that may be more difficult to amend later in life.
More young women are entering the workplace everyday and some have been raised to respect the dignity of their own selves in such a way as to avoid the attentions of would be suitors. I have heard many remark about the unwanted advances they have received during the course of their activities. There usually no practical advice I can offer in such cases since such situations happen spontaneously and without any real method for discouraging such behaviors. Then you have those whose cultural background perceive touching far different from the camaraderie expressed in contact sports. In the final analysis, there is more risk in touching than avoiding it altogether.
Sometimes the best habit to build is one of restraint and careful expression. Often, it creates the least amount of harm even while it builds distance that seems cold. Useful ways exist to reduce the chill aside from the touch. People do seem to be forgetting this and perhaps out of a lack of direction on the issue. Outside of the purview of diplomats and cross-cultural relations, at least in terms of policy, culture, and defacto respect, closing the distance between others often does not involve various forms of physical touching.