Should We Throw Touch as a Love Language at Work out the Window?

The Five Love Languages for romantic relationships and parents and children can also be applied at work.  Adapted to be the Five Love Languages of Appreciation instead of love in the workplace, the approach is the same. Know what other people need and give them that. 

Even though the developers of this concept replace “appreciation” for “love” when applied to the workplace, I have no problem with calling it love languages at work.  Our workplaces can and are better places when we show love in the right way and context everywhere we go.  Including the office. Especially in the office. 

But what about the fact that touch is one of the five love languages?  With as many issues that we have seen in the workplace related to inappropriate sexual advances often involving touch, how do we deal with this? 

First, it is an issue of measurement.  Where it is easy to describe ways someone may want and need touch in a romantic relationship, assessing appropriate touching in the workplace to discern if it is someone’s language of love or appreciation is rather difficult.  

Next, it is an issue if touch is okay at all in the workplace. If we can’t assess it appropriately, is doing anything related to touch at work okay?

I think at times touch is completely appropriate at work.  But how do we discern when and how and who when it comes to such a sensitive subject? 

First, knowing who it is okay to touch and how is important.   One way to discern this is to see if someone is comfortable giving appropriate touch at the office.  If they are hugging, it is probably okay for you to hug them.  If they always offer you a hand to shake instead of a hug as a greeting, it probably best to stick with a more formal handshake with that person.

Second, we need to realize that touch is often needed to express certain things. One, touch may be what is most appropriate in work situations to express care, concern, and empathy.  People are people inside of work just like they are outside. There are situations when people are hurting or in need and touch is absolutely the appropriate response. This means that in some industries where care is the primary work being done, appropriate touch may be a part of the job description. 

Two, physical touch has been shown to be appropriate to express spontaneous celebration. Think about sporting events and how often people spontaneously touch to celebrate.  There are instances in the workplace where touch, such as a high five for winning a major contract or a fistbump for finishing a complex project, makes a lot of sense.

When thinking about touch in the workplace it is also important to take into account cultural differences. 


What do you think about physical touch in the workplace? 

Mary Ila Ward

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