Being touchy shows up in two different ways. First, being touchy means you’re overly sensitive. But being touchy also means being “touchy-feely.” And sometimes, touchy-feely is just a no-go for so many reasons.
So, if you’re a bit touchy-feely, or you know someone who is, here’s how to stop.
What does being touchy-feely mean?
Touchy-feely people emphasize physical closeness (touchy) and being very open emotionally (feely). But sometimes, this makes people feel uncomfortable.
Touchy-feely people tend to casually touch other people in order to build a rapport or relationship with them. These people aren’t afraid of touching other people, or of being touched themselves.
But let’s face it: not everyone is touchy-feely, and these behaviors, though they have good intentions, can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, and make people upset and flustered.
Plus, cuddles can be hard to analyze and interpret. What do they mean exactly? Sometimes, there’s just no place for this sort of confusion in a relationship.
Is being touchy-feely always wrong?
So, touchy-feely can make other people feel uncomfortable, but is it always wrong? Not necessarily. In fact, with the right people, it’s probably appropriate and expected.
For example, you may be more physically in touch with your closest friends than with strangers or coworkers. Your partner probably wants you to be touchy-feely – at least some of the time.
And if you have a pet, or nieces, nephews, or children, you may express your emotions with them in a more physical way than with other people. And this is perfectly okay. So, how are you supposed to know when being touchy-feely is not appropriate.
When it’s okay being touchy-feely
It’s hard to draw specific guidelines on when being touchy feeling is okay, and when it’s not. Not everyone is going to welcome your physical touch, but sometimes you don’t know until it’s too late. So, here are some general guidelines to help:
Strangers are off limits
You don’t them, they don’t know you, and it’s better to stay on the safe side.
Ask if it’s okay
if you want to give someone a hug, ask, “Can I give you a hug?” Chances are, they will say yes. But if you gauge from their reaction that they’re not down for a hug, be socially savvy, take the hint, and save that hug for someone else.
Coworkers of the opposite sex
Unless you and your coworker are on the same page with physical and emotional sharing, keep your hands to yourself. Unfortunately, even if you mean well, they may misread your actions and you may end up with a harassment charge.
Pay attention to how other people express themselves
Before lathering on your physical affection, take some time to observe how other people express their emotions and how they engage with other people. Are they touchy-feely or are they more reserved? Are they touchy feeling only with certain people, or not at all?
It only takes some simple observations to decide if being touchy-feely with them would turn out okay or end up a disaster.
What is your intention?
Obviously, good intentions are not enough to justify being touchy feely. After all, even if your intention is sweet and affectionate, they might not take it that way.
But it’s still a good idea to check in with your motivations and intentions for being touchy-feely.
Is it sexually-driven? Is it based on attraction to the other person? Are you just a very touchy person who likes to express emotions physically?
When you identify your intention, you can often decide for yourself whether it’s appropriate or not.
Sexual? Better not. Physically attracted to someone? Also, you probably want to avoid touchy-feely behavior until you know that person is on the same page as you.
What if you’re just an open and expressive person? That’s great, but not everyone is. Sometimes, you need to dial back and save touchy-feely behavior for people who are more open and comfortable with it.
Be aware of cultural differences
Different cultures are more physically expressive than others. For example, British men tend to be much more reserved. Italian men? Not so much.
If an individual doesn’t share your cultural background, ask yourself what his or her cultural norms are and try to be respectful of them.
Express your emotions with words
If it comes naturally to express your emotions with physical touch, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. But it does mean that around some people, it might not be the best way to communicate.
And this isn’t that hard to wrap your head around. If you go to the bank, you have to engage with the bank teller in a more professional way than when you engage with your 3-year old nephew.
And for some people, it’s just more respectful and productive to express your emotions using words rather than with touchy-feely behavior.
Here are some tips to help you do that:
Use simple “I” statements
Try trading a hug with a simple statement like, “I feel _______”. You get to fill in the blank with the appropriate emotion. This lets the other person know how you’re feeling in a concise and clear way.
Tell the other person why you appreciate them
Use words instead of physical touch. This may be a much more constructive way to communicate.
Say “I love you” sparingly and only when you mean it
In American culture, people tend to say “love” when they don’t actually love something or someone. Instead, they use the word “love” when they’re really obsessed, or currently into any given thing or individual. Or even, when they simply like something a lot.
So, try to avoid saying “I love you” as a way to say something positive about another person. Instead, you can be more specific and say things like, “I appreciate you because _______.” Or, “I am so grateful that you did _________.”
Why is this better than saying “I love you” and giving them a big hug? Because it shows people exactly why you feel a positive emotion toward them. Plus, you get to do so without breaking boundaries or inserting yourself into their personal space.
Being touchy feely isn’t always bad, but it’s not always appropriate. If you’re an emotionally and physically open person, don’t hate on yourself for that. Just remember and respect that not everyone is this way. And for these people, it’s better to adjust how you communicate so you don’t offend them or cause discomfort.