If every handshake became a hug

If every handshake became a hug

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At the beginning of every talk I give, there is a technique I use that helps me get over my fear of public speaking.

It’s a quirky trick I came up with after room dynamics were explained to me by a great public speaking coach, David Roylance, who told me: “The first thing you have to do, Marc, is make the room feel safe.”

Now, I can’t remember where the idea came from, but the first time I tested a way of achieving this, I got everyone in the room to give a stranger a big hug. It worked so well that I now do it every time I speak.

At the moment of collective hugging, all tension in the room disappears and fortunately, all my own tension disappears at that moment, too. The hardest part, actually, is getting people to focus back on what I am saying!

You see, there is an awful lot of science around the power of hugging – which fascinates me. According to a study by psychologist Sheldon Cohen, published in December 2014, hugging even helps to cure common cold symptoms. Cohen says, “… if stress puts you at risk for disease, then having high levels of social support seems to protect people from that risk.”

Other research has found that a hug instantly reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, in our bodies. Instead, the body releases oxytocin – the ‘trust hormone’ – during a hug. Oxytocin reduces blood pressure, lowers anxiety, relieves stress, and improves memory.

If love is a drug, a simple hug goes a long way to healing, too.

For me, getting a room to hug is not just about helping me to speak in public. It is a demonstration of thinking about change. If we can hug a complete stranger in a conference room, how else can we change how we interact with people? How else could society change?

To me, changing the world doesn’t have to be hard. Transformation can come from a simple detail of life.

I believe that if every handshake became a hug, the world would be a very different place.

Try it with the next 10 people you meet, and see how the world changes for you.



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  1. I always encourage people to hug esp in the clinics. The transformation is amazing.

  2. I’m American and not that aware of how things are elsewhere (ha), but aren’t there already many cultures around the world in which a hug is the standard way to greet someone rather than a handshake? Like in South America and parts of Europe? And are things in such cultures really a world-change better? Maybe there are some benefits, but I think you may be guilty of hyperbole.

    • Latin Lover says

      William you are correcto. Many personas hug in my country, el pias Venezuela, and yet la vida no es bueno.

  3. Lisa Currie says

    I am terrible at public speaking and that is one of the best tips I’ve ever heard. I love it and will keep it in my bag of tricks for the next time I need to break the ice and create a more relaxed environment. Thanks Marc.

  4. I have been a Hugger for YEARS! I had many business contacts who I hugged – yes, so dangerous in this PC world full of sexual harassment. But I took the risk and found great friends in my colleagues, customers and suppliers. I continue this day to make hugging my standard method of greeting. It is a life changer.

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