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Haptic Communication


Explanations > Understanding body language > Haptic Communication

Professional | Punishment | Greeting | Guiding | Gaining attention | Sympathy | Arousal | So what?


Haptic communication is communicating by touch. This is used in a number of contexts and also has dangers for the unwary as touching for example where another person can, in particular circumstances, be interpreted as assault.

Touch is often intimate and can be used as an act of domination or friendship, depending on the context and who is touching who, how and when.

Young children and old people use more touching than people in the middle years.

Touch provides a direct contact with the other person. This varies greatly with the purpose and setting.


Some jobs require that the other person is touched in some way, very typically by people in the medical profession or other caring jobs.


Touch can be negative as well as positive and a slap or a punch sends a very strong message (that may well get the message sender into very deep trouble!).


Touching is a common part of many greeting rituals, from shaking hands to cheek-kissing to full-body hugs.

Such communication is highly ritualized and can contain subtle symbolism. For example clasping the other person for a fraction of a second longer than normal can send such different signals as affection and domination.


When a person is physically moving, a touch on the body, usually the back, shoulder or arm can guide them in the right direction.

Gaining attention

When you touch another person who is talking or otherwise engaged elsewhere, they are very likely to turn their attention to you.

Touching here is very much in safe areas, such as the arm or shoulder.

Saying their name at the same time reinforces strongly this move.


When we are distressed, we will often appreciate the touch of another as a parent, providing physical comfort.

The degree of touch in such circumstances varies greatly with the relationship, ranging from a gentle touch on the arm to an arm around the shoulder to a full-body hug.


Touching is often a part of friendship and demonstrates closeness. Friends will walk close together and occasionally bump into one another. They will touch more during greeting and may spontaneously touch one another during communication.


Touch is also used during sexual arousal, where certain sensitive parts of the body are caressed and stimulated.

So what?

So think carefully when you touch and use it for purpose. Touching can show friendship and can also be seen as a dominative act. Use it accordingly and understand how it is interpreted.

See also

Using Body Language, Touching, Hugging,


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