The Power Of Touch

Another of our popular stories from Tom Hoobyar embodying some NLP processes and everyday wisdom.

This week’s story draws from Section 1 — about anchoring (and much more)- in the NLP Portable Practitioner Training . If you have it, you’ll get even more out of the story!


Tom Dotz

The Power Of Touch

By Tom Hoobyar

Article Word Count 1227, average reading time 4.9 minutes.

Some years back I met this nice woman in a bookstore.

I had stopped in during my lunch break for a quick browse and she asked for help from a clerk who wasn’t helpful, and I knew the store so I stepped up.

I was single at the time but I had nothing on my mind other than helping a fellow book-lover find what she was looking for.

As we walked to the section she was looking for we started talking, and I was amazed at the great conversation that followed.

It went on for so long that we got tired of standing around in the bookstore. I invited her next door to a coffee shop so we could continue our visit. She accepted, and over coffee we learned more about each other.

She was going to grad school to become a psychotherapist. Like me, she had been married and had kids. She laughed easily and talked about her life with enthusiasm.

Occasionally as she was talking she would lean over and lay a hand momentarily on my nearest forearm. I could have talked with her all day, but we each had overstayed our lunch hours, and so we finally said our goodbyes.

Before I let her go I asked to see her again, and we made an arrangement to visit a craft faire in her hometown the following weekend.

I went back to work and didn’t think about her. Much.

But I had this funny feeling. It was a feeling of familiarity, almost like we had known each other for years. It was so easy being around her that I was anxious to see her again.

And then again. And again.

And finally after seeing her many times, I married her so I could see her for the rest of my life. That was almost nine years ago.

She still casually reaches out to me to lay a hand on my arm or to touch my cheek or shoulder when we’re walking or driving somewhere, or when we’re just sitting together at home.

Every time she does it’s like coming home for me.

And here’s another more personal thing I’ll share with you. On those mornings when one of us doesn’t have to rush out of bed too early, we enjoy just snuggling next to each other for a few minutes – nothing slinkier than that, but it stays with each of us and warms our day.

Here’s a story about someone else. This one goes back to my childhood.

My father was an immigrant from Persia, now called Iran. He was Assyrian, and like all my family on my dad’s side he was very warm and affectionate.

He was also big, a farm boy who grew up to play football for UCLA. Later in his life he became a professional singer and lecturer, so I saw him around lots of people.

I remember the discomfort some of his more conservative business associates showed when Dad would greet them in his booming voice and put his arm around their shoulders.

My Irish mom would explain to us kids that Dad was “more demonstrative” than most American men.

The other thing I noticed was that even though some of the other men seemed a little awkward trapped in Dad’s embrace, they loved him. He had an almost magical link with everyone that knew him.

When he was with someone that person would almost glow.

Just like I feel when I’m around my wife.

Here’s my point.

As much as I loved my dad and as much as I adore my wife, I don’t think those two were more magical than the rest of us – well, maybe a bit.

But mostly what I think it is, is that those two people were “touchy-feely” with others as part of their natures. I think that my dad and my wife are people who just naturally reach out to people in a physical sense as well as emotionally.

And I think it pays off. Obviously, I’m talking about appropriate contact, not fondling someone or invading his or her boundaries.

This is important, and if you really get it, it can immediately start warming up even casual relationships in your life.

It’s common knowledge that babies will not thrive if they are not touched and cuddled while they are infants – the human contact appears necessary to brain development and weight gain.

Here are some other interesting references:

A Professor at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration did a study of what waitresses could do to increase the tips they got from their customers – the ones who casually touched their customers’ hands or shoulders averaged bigger tips. Another study showed increases of 25% to 42%.

A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine (1995 Volume 18, No. 1) said that touch reduced pain and stress in surgical patients.

Here are others:

The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine says it has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant effects, including faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes, and improved immune systems in people with cancer.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is one of a number of leading health centers in the U.S. that now uses healing touch therapy. “Research has demonstrated that patients who receive healing touch experience accelerated wound healing and relaxation, pain relief and general comfort,” said a spokesman.

According to a Stanford University report, several studies are showing significant benefits in wound healing, pain and anxiety. It says touch therapy may also have positive effects on fracture healing and arthritis.

So – what does this have to do with you and why should you care?

Here’s my experience. I adopted my wife’s habit of touching others when I’m around them, and I think it’s warmed my relationships substantially, both in my family and even among casual acquaintances.

I frequently pat someone on the shoulder or gently touch their arm when I’m saying something, particularly when complimenting them, greeting them or saying goodbye.

It seems to be acceptable to everyone, and what it has done to me is to make me feel more at home with others. I actually feel warmer towards everyone that I deal with these days, and I think that this habit of touching them is one of the reasons why.

Why don’t you try an experiment? You can do this quietly, a little at a time, until you become comfortable reaching out to others even more.

Try to increase the number of times that you touch the people around you. It can be as concrete as my wife or my father — laying your hand on someone’s forearm or on their shoulder – or even just a quick friendly pat.

We learn in NLP that touches are anchors. So in effect, a touch on someone is like leaving a little physical reminder of your presence, your affection or your respect.

We’re physical beings, after all. We’ve all got skins that are chock full of nerves. Touching and being touched brings us closer to each other.

When you make your contacts with others more physical you increase your impact. Touch is a powerful message, and a warm touch is like a smile with an echo — It lasts for a long time. Give it a try.


Tom Hoobyar

0 thoughts on “The Power Of Touch”

  1. Tom,
    How substantial!
    Just today, a co-worker and I finally went to breakfast so I could get his payout for my birthday on July

    Our waitress was very nice to us and I noticed she practiced drawing us in with direct eye contact and her BIG smile.

    When I did my part and paid the tip I made sure it too was substantial and placed it in her hand and gave her hand an affectionate squeeze. I am sure we juiced her day with money and touch! I may never eat there again but she will never forget us, of that I am sure.

  2. Nice utilization, Joe! You’re very correct, that combination of a visual (her seeing your face/hand/money and kinesthetic anchors is a very powerful and lasting one.
    One of the ole mantras in NLP was “always leave people in a better state than you found them.” it’s not only a contribution to humanity, I’ve found from long practice that it’s a pretty sure way of elevating my state as well.

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