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Fresh News: The Obama-Clinton touch
The Obama-Clinton touch
A frequently commented on aspect of the evolving relationship between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is how much they touch each other.
Recently, there have been images of Barak with his hand on Hillary's arm, the two of them on stage leaning into one another and touching shoulders, and (after the announcement of her nomination as secretary of state) leaving the press conference with their arms around each other's backs.
Interesting - but what does it mean?
For one thing it means is that they both are comfortable with touch as a way of expressing themselves - and that, in turn, may mean a lot for the rest of us.
Touch has become a controversial issue in nearly every area of life - certainly in the workplace, where inappropriate touching can be grounds for dismissal or even prosecution. But in our sensitivity to political correctness, we may have lost a potent way to connect with others. Sometimes the simple act of touching someone to show support, encouragement, agreement, sympathy or gratitude adds the personal warmth to our communication that is otherwise lacking.
There are legitimate reasons for limiting physical encounters under professional conditions. Like any other nonverbal cue, touch can be misused as a power play or manipulation. Some people may use touch to display a sense of control or one-upmanship, and in those cases, a touch can feel condescending, uncomfortable, and be unwelcome.
Still, we may have overcompensated. We are now living in a touch-phobic society has taken something powerful and deeply human out of our interactions.
Usually considered to be the most primitive and essential form of communication, touch is so potent and effective that clinical studies at Mayo Clinic show that premature babies who are stroked grow 40 percent faster than those who do not receive the same amount of touching.
And touch retains its power -- even with adults in business settings. A study on handshakes (by the Income Center for Trade Shows) showed that people are two times more likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. The trade-show researchers also found that people react to those with whom they shake hands by being more open and friendly.
We are programmed to feel closer to someone who's touched us. The person who touches also feels more connected. It's a compelling force and even momentary touching can create a human bond. A touch on the forearm that lasts a mere 1/40 of a second can make the receiver not only feel better but also see the giver as being kinder and warmer.
Research by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration shows that being touched increase the tips that customers leave their servers. At two informal restaurants, waitresses had assigned to them customers who were randomly divided into three categories. Some customers were not touched at all, others were touched once on the shoulder for about one and a half seconds, and the rest were touched twice on the palm of the hand for about half a second each. All touches were casually given as the waitress returned change to their customers at the end of the meal. In all cases, eye contact was avoided
The results at both restaurants were significant. Customers who weren't touched left an average tip of 12%. Tips increased to 14% from those who were touched on the shoulders, and to 17% from those touched twice on the hand.
But it isn't only in restaurants that customers respond favorably to touch. In many commercial settings, casually touching customers has been shown to increase the time they spend in a store, the amounts they purchase, and the favorable evaluation of their shopping experience in that store. In related studies, touch was found to increase the number of people who volunteered to score papers and sign petitions. It was also observed that supermarket customers who had been touched were more likely to taste and purchase food samples than non-touched customers.
My friend, Bill is a natural "toucher." As such, he utilizes an interesting and effective communication technique. When he speaks, he touches the listener (most always on the forearm) to add emphasis to key parts of his statements. Touching ensures that, for a moment, he has someone's full attention. Because touch is used most often when we believe strongly in something (a liar will rarely touch the one he is talking to), Bill's touching also subconsciously enhances his credibility.
Isn't that amazing? Through a single touch we instantly become more likeable, friendly, memorable, and credible.
By offering a public example of two people at ease with touch, could Barack and Hillary be showing us that it is okay to find appropriate and friendly ways to touch in public?
I hope so!
Carol Kinsey Goman Ph.D. is a leadership communications coach and international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. She offers informative, interactive, entertaining and custom-tailored programs.
• Expert contributor for The Washington Post's "On Leadership" column.
• Leadership blogger on Forbes.com
• Author of "The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work (Bk Business)" and "The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help--or Hurt--How You Lead."
To contact Carol about speaking or coaching, call +1 510 526 1727 or email CGoman@CKG.com. For more information or to view videos, visit Carol’s websites: www.SilentLanguageOfLeaders.com and www.CKG.com.
You can also follow Carol on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CGoman, on FORBES http://blogs.forbes.com/people/carolgoman/, or “Like” her Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carol-Kinsey-Goman-PhD/105398069543578
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Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.
Kinsey Consulting Services
Carol coaches executives and delivers keynote speeches and seminars to association and business audiences around the world. She can be reached by phone: +1-510-526-1727, email: CGoman@CKG.com, or through her web sites: CKG.com and NonverbalAdvantage.com.
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