The Importance of Sense of Touch

Updated on August 20, 2010

We have five senses with which we interact with each other and these are smell, sight, sound, taste and touch. Different people among us are more responsive to a certain sense. For example, it is generally accepted that men are more visually responsive than women while sound is more important to women resulting in the need for them to have quality conversations with their friends. Touch has not been given as much attention in most discussions but it is an essential part of everyday interactions and it can make a whole lot of a difference in our relationships.

Touch is Communication

From the moment a baby is born touch constitutes a vital component of communication and in a very strict sense enhances its survival. This is demonstrated in the breastfeeding phenomenon; once a baby begins to breastfeed the contact through touch stimulates the nerves in the mother’s breast allowing for the production of milk which nourishes the baby.

As the baby grows their response to touch also develops. The kind of touch that he or she receives has an effect on him or her even into adulthood. For those that are touched with affection, which includes hugs, cuddles and caresses, they grow up to be more responsive to touch and are bound to desire it more. For those to whom touch represents punishment or abuse they will be weary of it and will go to great lengths to avoid it. It is a documented fact that the nature and frequency of touch that one receives as they grow up inevitably affects their response to touch as adults. This has profound implications especially when it comes to sexual relationships as the two partners may share differing opinions on touch. This places a significant responsibility on parents to bring up their children in a way that does not distort their natural response to touch.

Touch is healthy

Different cultures all over the world have different ways in which they greet each other. The common feature in all of them is the fact that they are all aspects of touch expressed in different ways and to varying extents. For example, in America people use handshakes which in themselves convey a lot of information. A limp handshake denotes reluctance to interact with the person while a firm handshake conveys a message of being glad for having met the person. In the corporate world it is a general rule that you should give a firm but not overbearing handshake to someone who you intend to transact business with. Other forms of greetings include a pinch on the cheek in Rome, a bear hug in Russia, a kiss on both cheeks in France while Polynesians rub each others’ noses while patting the body of the other person.

Touch is so crucial to our well-being that it has even being incorporated into our language. Common expressions in English include a touchy subject, a touch of genius and a soft touch. It is also common to hear people say ‘Let’s keep in touch’ or ‘The movie was very touching’. This clearly demonstrates how vital touch is to us. Irrespective of whether we know it or not we all have a need for touch which could be the desire either to touch or to be touched. This holds true even if we are not ready to acknowledge it.

Studies that have been done on the subject have clearly demonstrated that those who know the value of touch and constantly engage in it are happier and healthier. However, it is unfortunate that most Americans have not embraced the habit of touch. Most Americans will apologize if they touch someone by mistake as this is considered as an offensive thing to do. The good news is that the habit is increasingly being adopted by young Americans who are more liberal and are not shy to even hold each other in public.& This in turn goes a long way to cement their relationships making them more fulfilling.

Touch in social gatherings

Different of us are more particular than others concerning how close someone else comes to us. An important factor is the nature of relationship that exists between the two people. Generally, if two people are close friends then the question of proximity is not a very big deal but it is important for freshly acquainted people. The accepted distance that one should maintain is between two and a half feet to four feet which means that touch is not a possibility for this kind of interaction. However, in a crowded setting it is not practical to observe this distance and so one can interact closer to a stranger as long as they maintain a reasonable distance.

Touch in a relationship

There are different stages in the development of a relationship between a girl and a boy and for most of them touch plays a vital role in the advancement of the relationship. The stages are as follows and they do not have specific durations as this is a function of the two individuals involved:

Eye to body: this is where you notice each other and if there is an attraction you progress to the next stage.

Eye to eye: here your eyes meet and usually if you do not know each other you look away so as to break the visual contact. If you already know each other you will probably greet each other or smile at each other.

Voice to voice: it starts with small talk by asking each other simple questions. It allows you the opportunity to get to know the other person which informs your decision on whether you are interested in pursuing a relationship with the person or not.

Hand to hand: most often than not this will not be direct but under pretext of something else like showing direction or supporting the person. At this level one can choose not to progress with the relationship without hurting the feelings of the other as the intention has not yet been declared. However, once the intention has been declared holding hands becomes more frequent and prolonged and is a sign of intimacy between the two people.

Arm to shoulder: this is a huge step in intimacy as now the bodies come into contact with each other. It is usually the man who puts his arm around the lady’s shoulders.

Arm to waist: this is now a stage that indicates physical intimacy between the two.

Kissing: this marks sensual involvement although most often than not the first kiss is played very safe by kissing as a way to say goodbye.

All through the stages it is crucial especially for the man to be very prudent before moving to the next touch level. This is because moving too fast or skipping some stages may turn off the lady if she is not ready to move at the same speed. On the other hand, moving too slowly may be misinterpreted as a sign that you are not interested in her. It is worth noting that the woman generally has more leeway because she can touch the man at the early stages without it being offensive as would be the case if the man was to touch her.

When already in a relationship it is recommended that you should maintain physical contact with your partner as much as possible when you are together. The most practical way would be to hold hands and this has several possible variants; you could simply hold palm to palm, intertwine your fingers, squeeze each other gently or light finger touching where you play with your partner’s hand or arm. When practiced consistently this has the effect of creating a special feeling between the two of you which cannot be shared with anybody else. The dividends of doing this are that you will look forward to spending time together.

Touch and sex

Touch is extremely important during sex especially for the women as this allows for their bodies to be aroused. Knowledge on where to touch and how to touch then becomes necessary to have so as to enjoy a fulfilling sexual relationship. Inevitably, for those who have had negative experiences with touch it may not be easy to get past them but for sure it is well worth the effort.

In conclusion, touch is clearly a valuable channel of communication that you can use to enrich your relationships. To quote Desmond Morris who is an author, “Something special happens when two people touch each other physically, whether it be a handshake, a pat on the back or a slap on the face.” You should therefore endeavor to sharpen your skills in using this powerful channel of communication that has the potential of moving your relationship with your loved ones to a whole new level. Enjoy the ride!

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