We British are known for our reserved nature and stiff upper lip. Any displays of emotion are to be kept to a minimum. After all we don’t go in for all that over the top gushing in any form.
I spent my early years feeling that way and when I started work I knew I was expected to behave in a certain way. Back in the 1990s professional meant being cold and impersonal. I spent a long time perfecting this approach to work and large parts of my private life.
In recent years I think the world has moved on. We are starting to recognise the importance of emotional intelligence and in understanding not just our feelings but those of others around us. In work it is becoming acceptable to be real, authentic and human.
We know that there are times when we have to be unemotional because of the circumstances but that doesn’t have to be all the time. We can be more human. One crucial part of this for me is a small word for a big gesture and that is hugs.
About three years ago I was going through a difficult time and to help me through it I met a new group of people. They would greet me with hug and leave the encounter the same way. It is something I had previously had reserved only for very close family and often in a crisis situation. I started to see the benefit of the informal and warm greeting.
I have tried to introduce hugs into the workplace without anyone feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed. It needs to be as accepted as shaking hands and if we do it in the right way it can be.
In recent weeks I have been involved in more hugs than ever before. With a stressful situation to deal with, it became the preferred method of greeting. I know there are lots of studies that will tell you why hugs are good both psychologically and physiologically. I can’t tell you about that but I can say it has helped me a lot in the past six weeks.
It made me feel human and that the people I met cared about how I was feeling. It made me feel I could help others by demonstrating my emotions and in some cases it was a warm and heartfelt thank you. We need to become comfortable with public displays of emotion and see the benefits they can bring us particularly in our troubled times.