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MISSJANE55 SparkPoints: (42,272)
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9/15/13 8:45 P

Thanks for bringing this up because it just happened to me: my dermatologist of ten years introduced his new assistant to me about a month ago. She was present during two of four skin procedures I am having.
Each time she sees me she makes a gesture to touch my shoulder, which never feels 'right'. Last week she remarked on my 'look' (whatever that means) and reached toward my hair to sweep it to one side and then went for the should touch.
I found myself getting angry and physically pulling away from her. I felt almost violated. She's not my mother. Her gestures feel very manipulative and strange. I've only met her twice. What is she basing this 'closeness' on? What is she trying to accomplish? If it's trust she has completely lost mine.

Edited by: MISSJANE55 at: 9/15/2013 (20:46)
9/15/13 7:57 P

The only people who should touch me (on the shoulder or otherwise) shouldn't have to ask or wonder if it will make me uncomfortable. If you don't know how someone will react, then you aren't close enough to them to be touching them in any way, shape, or form.

9/15/13 7:53 P

Yeah, maybe all of that's true but I'll still take the compliments!

ANARIE Posts: 13,184
9/15/13 6:53 P

I would say your book was wrong.

Actually, I would say your book was talking about MEN only. The hand-on-shoulder thing is a dominance game between men. Yes, it means trust, but it also means, "See, I trust you, underling. Even though I'm definitely top dog here, you're my trusted sidekick."

When a man does that to a woman, I think it's pretty much always going to be a disaster. It's at best condescending, especially when there's a physical size difference. A man asserting dominance over a woman is not the same as with another man, even when there's not the slightest whisper of a hint of anything sexual.

TACDGB Posts: 6,136
9/15/13 5:03 P

for me it depends on who it is.......someone in my close circle yes it's ok. but other than that no......

GEVANS7 SparkPoints: (288,240)
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9/15/13 4:08 P

A hand put on a shoulder would be taken as a physical affront by me. It's something a scolding parent does to a child. or a harassing male does to a female in the workforce. It's condescending and a power play, NOT a symbol of trust.

Keep your hands to yourself.

An embrace is something else, or a gesture of comfort, but you had better be certain it is wanted. One co-worker of mine is germ freak and freaks out if anyone touches him. When a woman touches a man's hand or arm it is a flirtatious gesture and vice versa.

SUNSET09 SparkPoints: (534,543)
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9/15/13 9:13 A

Online Now  • ))

9/15/13 6:27 A

hahaha, so since I last posted about this I started to pay more attention to this particular gesture and have realized that it seems to be along the same lines as hand-shaking, hugging, fist-bumping, or anything else similar. What I DID notice, to my pleasant surprise, is that several people that have patted me on the shoulder had made mention of how solid my shoulders are, SWEET!

I told this to my friend that I freaked out on and she said she knows I feel solid, she said it's almost freaky like patting a brick wall........YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

8/30/13 10:47 A

It all depends on the people involved and the circumstances. A good scenario: My good friend who I've known for 20 years puts their hand on my shoulder and tells me something in confidence or a joke, or my boss comes up behind me and puts his or her hand on my shoulder and tells me I'm doing a good job. Perfectly acceptable -- feel good. A bad scenario: My boss touches my shoulder and asks me to step into their office (aaahhhhhggg!). Or, someone I just met assumes that they can touch me instead of just shaking hands. I always feel awkward when I meet someone for the first time and they lean in for a hug. Uhhhhhh, OK well!

Remember when President George W. gave the woman German chancellor a shoulder rub at an important international meeting of leaders and she was shocked? Now that was even awkward to watch on TV.

I think that a good rule is to respect another person's personal space regardless, unless you know them very well.

And then there are those people who we wish we could be touchy-feely with, but have to hold ourselves back from!! LOL!


Edited by: PATTIJOHNSON at: 8/30/2013 (10:50)
OBIESMOM2 SparkPoints: (245,404)
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8/29/13 12:25 P

depends on the person & the circumstances. I have been known to say 'don't touch me - you don't know me that well' in a semi-joking manner to acquaintances (or people I do know, but just don't like)

we are a family of huggers, so it's usually not a problem. But there are people who just creep me out, and I don't want to have any physical contact with them.

one of the vendors we worked with all the time at my last job had one of those touchy feely guys in management. All of us made sure there was some type of furniture (table, desk, whatever) between us and him.
there was a salesman who was an absolute dog. When he touched anything on my desk, I would spray the entire area with Lysol. He knew it and thought it was funny. Now he's one of the VPs. And still just as sleazy as ever. Looks real clean cut and innocent, but he's lecherous.

LOUNMOUN Posts: 1,334
8/29/13 11:47 A

If I knew the person for a long time and we already had a relationship with trust I might view a hand resting on my shoulder as friendly and warm.
If I didn't have that kind of relationship, I would find it creepy and invasive for someone to rest their hand on my shoulder. It would not convey trust to me. I wouldn't freak out but I wouldn't like it either as I do not like to be touched by a lot of people. It would make me want to avoid the person.

BLUENOSE63 SparkPoints: (108,021)
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8/29/13 6:54 A


See despite your bad ass look, you really are a softie with marshmellow inside! Good for you for manning up as they say. I knew you didn't mean to intentionally make her run screaming for the hills with your touch. emoticon

FENWAYGIRL18 Posts: 5,868
8/28/13 11:52 P

There are ways to touch someone to comfort them and I guess it all depends on the person who is touching.... I know my hubbys cousin creeps me out when he touches me and I've let it be known to my hubby not to leave him alone with me in the same room.

LADYCJM SparkPoints: (57,456)
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8/28/13 11:18 P

I've read that putting a hand on someone's shoulder is a sign of dominance. Whoever does it is saying "I'm the boss, I'm in charge". Goes along with the "upper hand" in hand shakes or covering the other persons hand during shaking.

In general, I do not like "work friends" touching me, especially if I am concentrating and they come up from behind. Call my name, it will startle me less.

8/28/13 9:27 P

I saw her and apologized. She said I made her feel creepy and she was embarrassed. She forgave me and then we chit-chatted about other stuff like we always do.

BLUENOSE63 SparkPoints: (108,021)
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8/28/13 6:42 A


Everyone has their own personal space or their "comfort zone". Your colleague obviously feels comfortable with you enough to think she can touch your shoulder. You, as evidenced by your actions, do not feel that comfortable with her. Yes that was a bonehead move to freak out and you should apologize and say that she startled you; hence, the flinch. Perhaps the solution is during work hours, the only physical contact should be if you need to do the Heimlich maneuver to save someone's life!

TENNISJIM Posts: 11,750
8/28/13 6:36 A

I never put my hand on anyone's shoulder

8/28/13 6:10 A

Right, I should've qualified the approach. I am speaking of hand on shoulder from a people skills point and NOT from a creepy (as in stalker) view point. This is a common technique and is NOT a sign of affection but if someone where to come up and touch you anywhere to your surprise (like what happened to me yesterday) then yeah, hands off ya creep!

RE: what happened to me yesterday
I will be apologizing to my friend today, after thinking about it I may have just over-reacted to her touching me but I still feel bad. about making it seem like she was doing anything out of the scope of our co-working friendship.

STEELER71 Posts: 8,048
8/28/13 5:58 A

I don't care for it. Keep your hands to yourself.

UPBEAT551 SparkPoints: (28,516)
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8/28/13 4:26 A

Interesting! But I like my own personal space.

FAITHP44 Posts: 8,583
8/28/13 4:03 A

I'm a hugger (where it seems appropriate) but hand on the shoulder? Maybe from behind to start a conversation maybe before of after Church, maybe to offer sympathy, but as a general rule - no. And there are some people who would freak me out if they did it to me. (I wouldn't make a scene, but it could cause me to avoid their company in future.)

EMPRESSAMQ Posts: 5,077
8/27/13 9:33 P

I think the hand on the shoulder thing really is risky. It can be perceived in many different ways by the recipient.

I personally would not welcome that at all from almost anyone except a family member or close friend.

Hugging is a different kind of thing, more impersonal and less controlling.

BUNNYKICKS Posts: 2,433
8/27/13 9:15 P

Hmm hugging is different than the hand-on-shoulder. There are occassions in the workplace where hugging is ok... i.e. when a co-worker retires and he/she receives hugs-goodbye at the retirement party. Hmm come to think of it, I can't think of any time that I ever hugged a co-worker other than at a going-away type function.

Hand on shoulder woah. Are we talking from-the-front, looking you in the eye with hand placed firmly on your shoulder? I would NOT like that at ALL. Not from the boss, not from a co-worker, not from a client. "Trust" is not the message it would convey to me at all. And i would feel just as weirded-out by a frontal-approach hand-on-shoulder given by a female as by a male.

Now, hand-on-shoulder from a side angle or behind as a "pat on the back" gesture, or as a "i'm standing behind you with support and compassion" gesture - I could see fitting in to certain situations. But I can see how it could be misconstrued when offered to the opposite gender, or to a subordinate or superior. There's potential to go awry. Really depends on the personal as well as working relationship you have with the person. There are people I work with that could touch me in this way and I would feel good about it. There are others who would definitely get the evil eye.

Outside of the workplace the rules are different, and maybe this trust thing might work. I.e. having a deep conversation with a close friend, one reaching out to place a hand on the other's shoulder while sharing a meaningful, important sentiment. Yea, ok, maybe this whole "gesture of trust" hypothesis would fit into that kind of scenario. ("I... you're the only one I can talk to, [hand on shoulder; leans in; confides secret"). Yeah. Ok. *There* it "works." At work, it doesn't. I don't blame you for feeling uncomfortable but I suppose in retrospect, withdrawing a pace or two might have been less awkwardness-producing than flipping out ;)

JANIEWWJD SparkPoints: (564,450)
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8/27/13 8:03 P

I am a true hugger and I don't think I've ever offended anyone.

SHKIRK Posts: 1,168
8/27/13 6:21 P

I think touching the shoulder depends on the occassion. With friends and family it's fine (even hugging) Comforting someone not so close (that may be as close as you should get).

SHERYLDS Posts: 17,362
8/27/13 5:56 P

I would reserve physical touching (even on a shoulder or an arm) for friends outside of the workplace. Just as you may have been bothered or surprised, you never know how another person feels about it. Beside the harassment implications, some people feel it is something you might do to a subordinate, but definitely not a superior. And other cultures definitely have a different concept of what is appropriate socially.

LOVE4KITTIES Posts: 4,690
8/27/13 5:51 P

My thoughts on someone putting a hand on my shoulder--don't do it. Please don't touch me. I don't like it. Unless you are a close friend or family member, don't touch me unless it's a hand shake! If you are a close friend or family member, feel free to give me a hug, but do not even think you are putting your hand on my shoulder to make a point or give a message of trust or anything else. Hand on shoulder = a creepy invasion of my space to me.

Edited by: LOVE4KITTIES at: 8/27/2013 (17:55)
8/27/13 5:44 P

Touching someone in an inappropriate place is bad news for sure.

JBALDWIN29 Posts: 5,136
8/27/13 5:28 P

Me personally I do not like when people touch me. I feel very uncomfortable, but that is just me.

8/27/13 5:24 P

I can't remember where I read this but I do know it was in a self-help book about people skills. A hand put on another's shoulder when you're talking to them makes for a powerful underlying message, it's suppose to be a message of trust.

I do this and others have done it to me but the weird thing, for me at least, is if a person does that to me and I already don't trust them I get creeped out otherwise I'm cool with it because I "get it".

I don't really remember how the technique was described or told how or when to execute it but it works. I am lucky, I suppose, as no one has yet to ever show a severe negative reaction to me doing so but that doesn't mean I have a 100% success rate. I know I've mis-judged folks after I've already shoulder touched them, you get that "look" and so in those couple of times I pulled back but nothing was ever said to me but either of those people afterwards.


Here's the hypocritical part on MY part; I kinda flipped out on a colleague of mine today when she put her hand on my shoulder. I LIKE this person, too! maybe I was caught off guard. I hurt her feelings but it was too awkward to apologize at that moment. I regained composure immediately and attempted to continue with the conversation. She immediately said she had to go and left.

I feel awful.

I will apologize in person tomorrow.

What are your thoughts about this technique? Some do it naturally like my old boss, he was good at it and hand large rough hands but he was a father-figure to me and I always felt TRUST between us. I have talked about this before here on SP and I got a LOT of flack about "touching" people like that is a sexual assault or something,, no it's not.

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