If an on-line hug doesn't quite have the required effect, a mismanaged 'live' hug can also go amiss!
Let's face it, I didn't attend "Practical Hugging 101", did you?
And so guys in particular have learned the "How-to-bring-wind-up" hug. This involves an embrace that ensures the lower regions are as far apart as physics permits. Once there is no ambiguous message conveyed by the nether regions, the process of patting the back begins. If I could belch on demand, I would do this as a response, just to help guys get rid of this horrendous practice!
If you are going to hug someone, then hug them - don't patronise them!
An unusual blog-post perhaps, but I believe this is an important one. You see, as humans, we've done a deal to cope with the ambiguities of attention. Humans need attention. But not the wrong kind of attention.
Ideally, we need physical attention. This, however, is way too easily misunderstood and misinterpreted. So, here's the deal. We swap verbal attention for physical attention. At a pinch, we'll even trade in visual attention - a respectful glance or nod from a safe distance. But these are all poor imitations of the real close encounters of the third kind: direct physical attention.
How can we make contact safely - maximising the impact of our positive attention, but minimising the serious risk of being misunderstood? Firstly, I can speak only for Western Cultures. In the West, the region of the arm from the shoulder down to the elbow is widely understood as non-sexual. This means that it is usually OK to make contact with someone here - much like shaking hands. Of course, duration and pressure also play a part. Hold on to someone's arm for too long, and you'll be sending mixed messages! You've also got to be true to yourself. If you're not a touchy-feely person - or if they aren't, you need to learn, through practice, to recognise the signs.
If you do think a hug is appropriate, go for a brief embrace that is static - no need for patting the other person. Sometimes this is the most profound form of supportive contact - the impact of which goes way beyond anything we could articulate in words.
Surprise a friend with a hug!