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The Benefits of Human Touch to Strengthen Your Relationship

The Benefits of Human Touch to Strengthen Your Relationship

We all know that a soothing touch from your partner is pleasant. But few of us ever realize the immense benefits of human touch for our relationships.

Does it matter where we are touched, and how often?

As a recent study reveals, it does indeed.

The online study asked people aged 20 to 40 years to answer a question “Where do you prefer to be touched by your partner” and name one or several body parts.

As you would expect, the results show major differences between men and women in regard to their tactile preferences.

The biggest surprise?

Most of us have the same favorite body part that craves touch.

These are the top 3 places where we like to be caressed by our partner:

Women:

  1. Back
  2. Neck
  3. Legs & thighs

Men:

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  1. Back
  2. Neck
  3. Head & hair

Before we tell you more about the results, let’s look at why human touch is so important for cultivating a thriving relationship.

Why is touch important?

Touching others and being touched are fundamental modes of human interaction that are instrumental to our health and well-being.

Many studies have proven that humans need touch, particularly in childhood, almost as much as they need food and water. There are numerous benefits of human touch: from stress-relief to an improved mood and even pain reduction.

Humans have two touch systems – the factual (discriminative) and emotional. The latter is mediated by a very different set of sensors and nerve fibers, and it conveys information much more slowly. These could include a hug from a friend, mother’s touch to a child, or intimate contact between partners. They all activate the parts of the brain that are crucial for socially-bonding touch.

Today, when online communication seems to substitute face-to-face interaction, touching does not lose its importance. At the same time, we see that our lives become increasingly touch-free, as we can communicate and receive many services digitally.

Researchers have even coined a term ‘skin hunger’, which is a state of being touch-deprived and longing for physical human contact. Depression and health issues, both physical and mental, can often be the effects of ‘skin hunger’, most severely felt by seniors, prisoners, and other people who lead solitary lives.

It’s not surprising that movements related to the power of touching like Reiki or the Japanese healing art Jin Shin Jyutsu become more and more popular. Many people are even seeking “professional touchers” such as physical therapists or chiropractors, possibly to fill the void of affectionate touch by a fellow person.

Survey Results

To find out where we prefer to be touched, the couples clothing brand Be-With conducted an anonymous online survey. They asked people aged 20 to 40 years – 53% women and 47% men – to answer a question “Where do you prefer to be touched by your partner” and name one or several body parts.

    Survey results: Where we like to be touched by our partner

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    #1: The Back

    It turned out that the majority – 64% of women and 50% of men – prefer to be caressed on their back.

    The good news is that the back is one of the easiest body parts to be touched, as it can be done anywhere and anytime. In fact, most of us are okay even with friends and colleagues touching our backs occasionally.

    But why does a caring back-stroke by your partner produce a strikingly different sensation than a friendly pat on the back from a colleague?

    The reason why intimate back strokes and romantic touching, in general, are so powerful lies in the release of oxytocin – commonly known as the love hormone.

    As oxytocin levels increase during hugging and making love, there is a greater amount of it being produced among people who are in a relationships (both casual and longterm) than in those who are single.

    There’s also an age-old (and less romantic) explanation why most of us love when someone scratches our back. It turns out, back scratching used to be a grooming need – a favor done to our ancestors by their loved ones. With time, it evolved into a social, and even mating, function.

    #2: The Neck

    The neck is a peculiar spot – entirely visible and open to the public, yet at the same time, it is a very intimate area. As a study of 1,368 Europeans showed people are more reluctant to strangers, acquaintances, or even distant relatives touching their neck. [1]

    It all changes when it’s our intimate partner who’s doing the touching; then, the feeling is very special. The survey reflects this with 55% women and 39% of men admitting to like it when their neck is caressed by their significant other. No wonder since the neck area has a high concentration of light-touch receptors that go wild for gentle kisses and even a light tickle of breath. [2]

    It seems that the greater the pleasure incurred by touching a specific area of the body, the more selectively we allow other people to touch it.

    The Runners-Up: Arms, Legs, Head, and Shoulders

    The next most preferred areas for women to be touched are legs & thighs (25%), closely followed by shoulders (23%).

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    As for men, the head & hair area gets the bronze medal with 20% respondents, while arms and legs take the 4th and 5th place with 15% of guys loving to be touched there.

    Interestingly, only 8% of women claim to love when their arms are touched. Maybe we are not aware of the secret erogenous zones that our arms and legs hide – for example, the inner wrist, feet and the spot behind the knee. However, even caressing the more “popular” zones like the upper thigh or the arm can spark a warm feeling between partners. [3]

    What about…down there?

    As we go lower, the greater differences begin. When it comes to our most sacred zones, 15% of men give preference to being touched ‘down there’ while only 2% of women do.

    Why are we so different in this?

    The differences between how men and women perceive the delicate matter of intimacy are the subject of many books and studies. One of the reasons might be that for women, their private parts are reserved for only the most intimate of moments when they have chosen to let down their barriers.

    Men, on the other hand, generally have gotten acquainted with their intimate areas sooner, since early childhood and thus tend to be more open about them or even associate them with emotional and physical pride.

    Still, the survey reveals that, contrary to how men are commonly portrayed, their private parts are by far not their most preferred touching zone.

    Intimate touching vs. Non-Intimate touching

    The above survey results indicate that for couples, touching that represents companionship and support that matters even more than touching the intimate areas that have the greatest potential to bring pleasure.

    However, we are not going to deny that intimacy is crucial for cultivating a strong and long-lasting relationship.

    What’s essential here is not limiting touches to intimate play only.

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    While every other magazine cover seems to scream of intimacy and push some sort of “relationship agenda” on us, it’s surprising how little we talk about the importance of non-sexual physical affection.

    For example, studies have found that affectionate physical behavior like hugging can reduce blood pressure and lower reactions to stressful life events. [4]

    When you are in a relationship, touching begins to have an even more profound impact. Those who have been in relationships will remember those months of being in love when eye contact in combination with touch stirred up the butterflies in the stomach. If you had even the slightest doubt about the romantic attitude of the person beside you, the “accidental” hand-touching had the power to remove it altogether.

    As the relationship matures, the importance of touching grows and diversifies. For example, daily cuddling can strengthen the relationship and enhance love, which are probably some of the most important benefits of human touch.

    Also, relationships in which physical affection is prioritized lead to less fighting. Even if you do find yourself in a conflict, it can be easier solved with touching; if the couple shows signs of physical affection like hugging and cuddling while they’re experiencing problems, they are likely to resolve their conflict sooner.

    The Benefits of Human Touch for Your Relationship

    In the never-ending rush through life, work, and other chores, a simple gesture like a hug or a touch can go a long way to benefit a relationship.

    And it can work the other way around too; lack of physical proximity can make you grow apart.

    For some couples, it comes naturally. Others might need to make a concerted effort. If you would like to introduce more touching into your relationship, you can agree to experiment with a more-touch-policy for a month and see how you’re feeling. Or, try touch-encouraging products or accessories like a cuddle mattress or couples’ clothing with secret openings for touching.

    If you’re experiencing relationship strife, try the simple act of human touch to bring the spark back.

    Featured photo credit: Christiana Rivers via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Ieva Baranova

    Ieva helps tech startups access big markets and is a passionate advocate of alternative work formats.

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    Last Updated on April 6, 2020

    10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

    10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

    Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

    Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

    Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

    So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

    1. Be Authentic

    To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

    Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

    Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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    2. Listen

    Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

    To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

    Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

    Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

    3. Become an Expert

    Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

    You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

    4. Lead with Story

    From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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    If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

    5. Lead by Example

    It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

    ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

    We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

    6. Catch People Doing Good

    A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

    Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

    7. Be Effusive with Praise

    It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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    Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

    8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

    I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

    The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

    If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

    9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

    The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

    The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

    If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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    10. Understand Your Lane

    If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

    Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

    You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

    Final Thoughts

    Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

    It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

    More Tips About Making Influence

    Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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