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  #51  
Old 05-03-2019, 01:43 PM
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Do you know what really ticks me off? The fact that we have chased off too many females from this board to even pretend that this can be a fair debate. First person narratives from the point of the possible victims are needed in my opinion, but it may be too late in the life of this board to get a fair number of those.
  #52  
Old 05-03-2019, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
Is it just me - I never considered the wrist to be a particularly erogenous area.
You think this whole thing is because someone considers ēs wrist to be an "erogenous area"?
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  #53  
Old 05-03-2019, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
Let me know when you see a male do that to another male in a business meeting...and let me know how the male being touched that way reacts, while you are at it. Every time I've seen it done it was a male coworker touching a female coworker and(farbeit from me to "mansplain" how females feel about such a maneuver, so corrections are certainly welcome) I have never seen the female being touched in that manner react positively.
Czarcasm, you keep asking if men do this to other men, posters keep saying 'yes' and you keep ignoring the answer you don't like and asking it again. Yes I've seen men touch other men to ask a question or get their attention in a non-threatening way. It happens. It's not viewed as harassment and it's not only a male to female thing.

I'm the poster that brought this up in the other thread, and I'm apparently the outlier. The guy in question looked at the woman and question, and as he gestured to her lightly touched her wrist and said "we're running out of time, let's take this up first thing at the next meeting."

My point was that it didn't appear to be anything at the time, except to the woman in question of course. They guy wasn't viewed as a "toucher." This was among a group of pretty senior civilian leaders. The issue isn't that she shouldn't be touched if she doesn't want to be. Or that she didn't have rights. It was that there is some expectation, especially at the senior level, that peers should be able to work out minor issues with other peers. If you're going to lead people, and manage millions (or billions) of dollars, you should have it in you to look someone in the eye and say "you touch my wrist at the end of the meeting, and I didn't appreciate it, I hope that doesn't happen again."

If he says anything other than "I sincerely apologize, it won't happen again" then she can still go to HR if she wants. But the issue many had in the office is that the 'act' didn't appear to be commensurate with the reaction.

My point is that everything that happens between two co-workers isn't a federal case as we used to say when we were kids, and everything doen't have to go to HR.

As someone else said up thread, intent matters. The history between individuals matters. The actual act matters. As I said in that other thread, every interaction among peers that isn't 100% satisfying to all doesn't have to go to HR.
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Old 05-03-2019, 01:57 PM
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There are times in my life where, to get someone's attention, where speech is not adequate, I have touched them, lightly. No one has ever complained, and I would be offended if they did.
You would be offended if somebody asked you not to touch them?

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I was watching a guy leaning on the wall close to my video tripod during a meeting the other day. He kept shifting his feet, and when one foot got within 2 inches of the tripod, I tapped him on the arm and asked him to move away and not bump the tripod. I consider this to be entirely appropriate, even though he was a stranger. He was potentially invading my space.
So, because you thought he might potentially invade your space, you actually invaded his?

Why couldn't you ask him to move away from the tripod without tapping him?

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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
Let's say you are seated next to someone, but in a manner that they are partly turned away from you - maybe looking at a screen or speaker. You want to silently get their attention - for any number of reasons. .
Tap on the table in front of them. Or raise your hand into their line of view -- not a full hand block of their screen, just a bit of an attention gesture.


The question really isn't only whether the touch is sexual, or even whether it's controlling. Some of us get chalk-screeching-on-a-blackboard level effects by being touched unexpectedly, or in a context in which we didn't invite the touch; even if we enthusiastically take place in touch in other circumstances.
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Old 05-03-2019, 01:58 PM
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Part of the problem is that if someone is oblivious to "tactful" attempts to get them to stop a behavior, they are going to feel like they were blind-sided and someone over-reacted when they finally DO get it. I've known plenty of people at work who got written up for something (not always involving touching/gender issues at all) and genuinely thought it literally came out of nowhere. But in each of those cases, their HAD been softer interventions, casual "heads-up" conversations, expressions of concern, etc., and they just whooooshed right over the head of the person targeted because the person just couldn't grok that their behavior was problematic. So finally someone escalates it to a level they "get", and then they are shocked and appalled that this came out of nowhere.

As a result, whenever anyone I don't know tells me a story of work jumping their shit without any earlier indication about anything, I tend to reserve judgment.
  #56  
Old 05-03-2019, 02:01 PM
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I do consider that kind of touch wrong in the workplace. It wasn't to grab the attention of someone who was distracted or in his way. It wasn't done as a friendly greeting. It wasn't done for a positive purpose. It was done to control the person to get them to stop talking.
So? You think it's abnormal to get someone to stop talking in the workplace?


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There are more workplace-appropriate ways to handle that situation that don't involve touching. A touch like was described is like telling the person to shut up. There was no need to touch her at all. Just saying "let's table this for next time" is sufficient.
But telling her to shut up was the whole point. In fact the touch was immediately followed by a statement to this effect, if I remember correctly what the OP wrote. And once again, telling someone that it's time to stop talking is not an abnormal behavior in the workplace. Are you arguing the contrary?

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Giving someone a pat on the back for a job well done is a positive action even if the person might like to be touched. But putting a hand on their back (or wrist or wherever) and telling them that they need to stop talking is a controlling action. That's what I see as a difference in the justification for someone being offended by being touched. They may not like being touched in general, but if the touch is done for a negative reason, then I think they are justified in being upset and that kind of touching should be generally not done at work.
This is way too convoluted and overthought in my opinion. For one thing it's you projecting all these hidden meanings in a simple gesture and a second thing is that there has never been a rule according to which touching should exclusively be used to express positive ideas and feelings.

That's what I deplore : this injection of all sort of unwarranted assumptions about the meaning of a simple touch, and the desire to restrict it severely to some very specific circumstances. It makes it feel like touching is perceived as something inherently bad and to be avoided, except in some special, strictly limited, situations where it could be good. While the opposite used to be true, touching being a good thing by default, except in some special situations when it wasn't.

As someone mentioned already, this isn't some minor change to accommodate evolving sensibilities. It's a massive change in how touching is perceived and of the resulting social norms. Pretty much a 180 turn.
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  #57  
Old 05-03-2019, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by spifflog View Post
My point was that it didn't appear to be anything at the time, except to the woman in question of course. They guy wasn't viewed as a "toucher." This was among a group of pretty senior civilian leaders. The issue isn't that she shouldn't be touched if she doesn't want to be. Or that she didn't have rights. It was that there is some expectation, especially at the senior level, that peers should be able to work out minor issues with other peers. If you're going to lead people, and manage millions (or billions) of dollars, you should have it in you to look someone in the eye and say "you touch my wrist at the end of the meeting, and I didn't appreciate it, I hope that doesn't happen again."
Why are you giving him the benefit of the doubt here, and not her? How do you know it was the first time, that she hadn't tried to talk to him about it first or that this hadn't happened before between these two people? It's okay to just reserve judgment if you don't know.
  #58  
Old 05-03-2019, 02:06 PM
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Czarcasm, you keep asking if men do this to other men, posters keep saying 'yes' and you keep ignoring the answer you don't like and asking it again. Yes I've seen men touch other men to ask a question or get their attention in a non-threatening way. It happens. It's not viewed as harassment and it's not only a male to female thing.
As an example of what IMO one should do:

The other day, I noticed a guy I work with had some (dust, bird crap, something) on the back of his jacket.

Me: "Hey [guy], you got something on the back of your jacket"

Guy: "Do I?"

Me: Raised my hand and then said to [guy] "Do you mind?"

Guy: "No, go ahead"

Me: Wipes off dust.

Simple. Easy to remember. No need to wonder "Can I touch him? How shall I do it? Will he get offended? blah blah blah"
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Old 05-03-2019, 02:13 PM
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Why couldn't you ask him to move away from the tripod without tapping him?
.
The problem from my point of view is that there's an assumption in this statement : the assumption that tapping him (or touching him in general) is inherently wrong, and can only become acceptable if there's an imperative reason for it.
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Old 05-03-2019, 02:16 PM
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I'm genuinely bewildered by some of the attitudes here, because social norms are so different where I work. It's a primarily (like 80%+) female work environment, and there's a lot of casual touching. A hand on the shoulder is a very common and efficient way to get someone's attention, and I've both used it and received it very often. Co-workers don't hug a lot, but I definitely see hugs, especially with a teacher friend from a different school that you see at a meeting. Some coworkers will put a hand on your arm while telling a story.

A couple of weeks ago, the question of workplace touching came up, and I told a fellow teacher about our previous thread on the subject, and about the folks who said there should be no workplace touching at all. She was totally contemptuous: "That's not assault," she said, "That's just normal human interaction."

It may be different in part because we're a pretty tight-knit group, and there's a ton of socializing outside of work hours. We babysit for one another and go on trips together and hang out after work on Fridays and drink beer together and have book clubs together.

Of course if someone said they didn't want to be touched I'd apologize and remember that. And if HR told me there'd been a complaint, I'd be mortified and I totally wouldn't blame the complainer, and I'd change. And there are people here whose body language and level of formality makes me think that they wouldn't want to be touched on the shoulder to get their attention.

But it seems to me that there are different legitimate cultural norms, and as in all situations, the best thing to do is to be aware of one another's norms and make allowances. If you don't like to be touched, let folks know; if someone lets you know, respect that.

But I'm skeptical of the extreme positions.

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 05-03-2019 at 02:18 PM.
  #61  
Old 05-03-2019, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
And if HR told me there'd been a complaint, I'd be mortified and I totally wouldn't blame the complainer, and I'd change.
But that's just it. In the other thread, HR told them there was a complaint, and they belittled the woman and called her "chickenshit" and that she had to "run to poppa" or whatever it was.
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Old 05-03-2019, 02:25 PM
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Czarcasm, you keep asking if men do this to other men, posters keep saying 'yes' and you keep ignoring the answer you don't like and asking it again. Yes I've seen men touch other men to ask a question or get their attention in a non-threatening way. It happens. It's not viewed as harassment and it's not only a male to female thing.
I asked if men touch touch one another in that particular manner to control what they say. Who in this thread said yes(without changing it to grabbing wrists, back pats and the like)?
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Old 05-03-2019, 02:26 PM
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Some of us get chalk-screeching-on-a-blackboard level effects by being touched unexpectedly
Have you discussed your condition with a physician?
  #64  
Old 05-03-2019, 02:27 PM
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If you have consent then you're golden. If I hold my arms up to invite a hug from someone and they step in, I have consent for the hug. Now, if they decide that's an invitation to grab my ass they're gonna get a big surprise. Hugs are not the same thing as ass grabs. If I invite a hug and get an outstretched fist bump hand then I go for the fist bump, that's the extent of consent I have.

If you work in a place where everyone has established they are okay with casual touch then fine, consent is there. When a new person gets hired, though, I'll bet five bucks right now that all those casual touchers pull back until/unless the new person indicates they consent to the touching and if they're just not comfortable with it then it would be absolutely not okay to insist they conform to the norm for the rest of the workplace. Because that person has the right to decide what level of body contact they're comfortable with and everyone else has the absolute reponsibility to respect that.

Likewise, if you were okay with casual physical contact but have decided that in the case of one person that contact is not as casual as you'd assumed and you now feel uncomfortable, you have the absolute right to put up that boundary for that one person only and to have it respected. It's not rocket surgery, FFS.
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Old 05-03-2019, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I'm genuinely bewildered by some of the attitudes here, because social norms are so different where I work.
My take is that the "anti-touching" positions expressed here are the new and future norms, and your peculiar work environment is still following the old norms, possibly because teaching is a social activity and schools not a very formal environment. But that what you describe is going the way of the dodo in my opinion (which, once again, I regret).

New generations of teachers will probably have more and more restrictive views about what kind of touching is acceptable. Equating unwanted touching and assault has become so common that this kind of tolerance can't last for long.

People who have been told all their life that one should never touch a stranger unless they're 150% sure that this touch is welcome (for instance by people posting on this thread who are their parents), and that a stranger touching them is at best rude and at worst a criminal can't feel comfortable when any coworker feels allowed to touch them for any random reason. We're still at a stage where a lot of people haven't been raised with the idea that touching is wrong by default, and that any touch requires a lot of soul-searching about body autonomy and sexual agression, but at some point only dinosaurs won't have been raised this way.
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  #66  
Old 05-03-2019, 02:42 PM
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But that's just it. In the other thread, HR told them there was a complaint, and they belittled the woman and called her "chickenshit" and that she had to "run to poppa" or whatever it was.
Yeah, that's absolutely a difference, and I meant to be clear on that: when I talked about what my response would be to HR, that's because I think that's a reasonable and appropriate response, not the hyperdefensive response the other poster had.

As for the changing of norms, my first extensive experience as an adult in an elementary school was an internship at an elementary school garden, back in the mid-nineties. The cooperating teacher was a man, and he told me that under no circumstances should I ever touch a child.

A decade later, in 2006, I went back to school to become a teacher, and checked with a couple of different professors to verify that that should be my policy. They looked at me like I was simple and said, "No, of course not. Kids need touch, and you need to be able to hug a sad kid, or put a hand on their back, that kind of thing."

The no-touching idea has been around for at least 20 years, in my experience, but I'm not seeing it changing, at least in an elementary school setting.

I'm curious about other elementary schools, though. Folks with elementary school kids, do you see the adults at the school engaging in this kind of casual touch?
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Old 05-03-2019, 02:47 PM
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If you have consent then you're golden.
That's a perfect example of what I say. Nowadays, the same language is used for touching and for sexual intercourse, and the same type of restraint is expected for both. As if touching a body in any way is something extremely intimate that requires prior authorization as opposed to a perfectly natural and usual way to communicate and interact between human beings. The body has become sacrosanct.

With this way of thinking becoming widespread, there's no way relaxed attitude towards touching that Left hand of dorkness experiences can last for long.
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Old 05-03-2019, 02:48 PM
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If you work in a place where everyone has established they are okay with casual touch then fine, consent is there. When a new person gets hired, though, I'll bet five bucks right now that all those casual touchers pull back until/unless the new person indicates they consent to the touching and if they're just not comfortable with it then it would be absolutely not okay to insist they conform to the norm for the rest of the workplace. Because that person has the right to decide what level of body contact they're comfortable with and everyone else has the absolute reponsibility to respect that.
This is a fair point. I was trying to think about that in the context of a new team member who came on this year. She's great--but she's also far more conservative, in appearance and religion, than the rest of us casual heathens. She doesn't come to afterschool events, she's not interested in my rabble-rousing, and I don't think I've ever seen her touch anyone. If I needed to get her attention, I'd be a lot more hesitant to tap her on the shoulder than I would be with other co-workers. I'm not quite sure why.
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Likewise, if you were okay with casual physical contact but have decided that in the case of one person that contact is not as casual as you'd assumed and you now feel uncomfortable, you have the absolute right to put up that boundary for that one person only and to have it respected. It's not rocket surgery, FFS.
Absolutely. This falls under the "tell people your needs" umbrella. If someone gives me the slightest glimmer of a hint that they don't want me to touch them on the shoulder to get their attention, I'd be not quite mortified, but I'd be pretty abashed, and of course I wouldn't touch them ever again.

The tricky part is where to draw rules. I'm imagining some responses to being touched on the shoulder:

1) Person is fine with it.
2) Person cringes.
3) Person asks me nicely not to do so.
4) Person asks HR to ask me not to do so.

I'd be okay with all of these.

5) Person gets pissed off at me and asks HR to discipline me for touching them on the shoulder, without ever doing 3 or 4.

That's where it'd be a little weird to me.
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Old 05-03-2019, 02:51 PM
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There's another thing that may come into play: how do folks feel about verbal interruptions?

If I'm talking with a student about how they added some numbers together, trying to figure out where they went wrong, and another teacher has a super-quick question for me about whether we're going out for recess despite the rain earlier that morning, the teacher's got a few choices:

1) Stand behind me and wait. This may take several minutes, depending on what I'm doing.
2) Touch my shoulder to get my attention. This lets me finish my thought before turning my attention to them.
3) Interrupt me verbally.

I would much rather the teacher do 2 than 1 or 3. The verbal interruption can be disorienting, and I get way more annoyed at verbal interruptions than I do at a shoulder-touch. And waiting for a long time will seem weird and inefficient to me if it's a quick question.
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Old 05-03-2019, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by clairobscur View Post
The problem from my point of view is that there's an assumption in this statement : the assumption that tapping him (or touching him in general) is inherently wrong, and can only become acceptable if there's an imperative reason for it.

But IMO that's not the right POV, or even a realistic one. The assumption is that the receiver or the Touch gets to decide for themselves whether it's an OK Touch or a Bad Touch ; and in the latter case will be helped by the law.
In the overwhelming majority of innocent cases however, it will be just that : innocent. And yeah, the touchee coulda sued your ass but they won't, because it didn't bother them and they don't want to make a fuss about it and it's pretty much a non-event, yadda yadda.

In those case that *are* problematic, for one reason or another, it's better to be able to point out to a baseline, simple, but most importantly provable infraction. See my post in the "military rape" thread. Yeah, a woman might sue you for touching her wrist. But if she's suing you for that, there's a good chance you did far more than that to her - it's just easier to prove and less damaging to her reputation to sue you over touching her wrist in the cafeteria than raping her in the copy room.

At the same time, the sheer amount of opprobrium doled out by employers, coworkers, industry and society alike to any whistleblower, about any corporate dysfunction (nevermind social, sexual dysfunction), ensures that yeah, no, you're not going to get sued by the redhead from accounting you've never even talked to, Keith. And if you do and if she's just a gold digger, it's gonna come up. It's gonna come up even if you forcibly raped her in the arse on camera, buddy. It's fine. For you.
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Last edited by Kobal2; 05-03-2019 at 02:56 PM.
  #71  
Old 05-03-2019, 02:57 PM
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There's another thing that may come into play: how do folks feel about verbal interruptions?

If I'm talking with a student about how they added some numbers together, trying to figure out where they went wrong, and another teacher has a super-quick question for me about whether we're going out for recess despite the rain earlier that morning, the teacher's got a few choices:

1) Stand behind me and wait. This may take several minutes, depending on what I'm doing.
2) Touch my shoulder to get my attention. This lets me finish my thought before turning my attention to them.
3) Interrupt me verbally.

I would much rather the teacher do 2 than 1 or 3. The verbal interruption can be disorienting, and I get way more annoyed at verbal interruptions than I do at a shoulder-touch. And waiting for a long time will seem weird and inefficient to me if it's a quick question.
4) Stand next to you yelling "HEY! HEY!" as loud as I can while waving my hands in front of your face.

What?
  #72  
Old 05-03-2019, 02:59 PM
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Let me know when you see a male do that to another male in a business meeting...and let me know how the male being touched that way reacts, while you are at it. Every time I've seen it done it was a male coworker touching a female coworker and(farbeit from me to "mansplain" how females feel about such a maneuver, so corrections are certainly welcome) I have never seen the female being touched in that manner react positively.
Have already.

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...
I (male) do not touch at work but have been touched. More often it is female doing the touching and it is to communicate a variety of things, from getting my attention, or for emphasis, or just as a friendly (not sexual or flirtatious) gesture. Men touching me is less common but also for all those things. Not touched as a matter of power or of sexuality.

Speech can be offensive. Touch can be offensive. Neither is inherently so. Context and intent matters.
Yes in actual meetings. It's usually a subtle thing in the meeting in progress and much more often the female chair/director to the other (male) leader; they sit next to each other. I've seen the other way too. Both reacted tp the message that was intended to be communicated. A look and then wrapping it up, sometimes with a comment of not realizing the time.

And I've been gently touched during same monthly meeting by male and female docs next to me in these same meetings to get my attention to ask something (relevant to the main discussion) in a whisper that would not disrupt the meeting.

This is every day normal communication behavior to me.
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:00 PM
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This seems like a perfect opportunity to promote my new, unisex business burka.

Head to toe coverage from prying eyes, unwanted touches, and troublesome HR issues.

Comes in navy and charcoal pinstripe.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:05 PM
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4) Stand next to you yelling "HEY! HEY!" as loud as I can while waving my hands in front of your face.

What?
Heh. I see you've been around elementary school students.

I actually have an ongoing conversation with my kiddos about this. A lot of kids want to get my attention by shouting, "Mr. Dorkness! Mr. Dorkness!" over and over, or else just shouting their question at me.

The worst are the kids who literally poke me in the arm to get my attention. My response is to whirl on them with my best angry emu face and poke them in the arm over and over until they cringe away giggling; it only ever takes one time for them to get the idea that maybe I don't like to be poked.

For kids, then, I have a rule: if you want my attention for a non-emergency, sit at your seat with one hand raised and the other hand working. I'll get to you as soon as I can, and if it's going to be awhile, I'll tell you that.

But with adults, the rules are a little different, because we all respect each other's time and ask for help a lot more rarely.

...I'm getting pretty off topic, aren't I? Sorry.
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:07 PM
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My take is that the "anti-touching" positions expressed here are the new and future norms ...
New and less of an extreme abnormal outlier than before but not to my view or experience the norm.

Non-sexual touch has been part of normal communication, well, forever. Certain cultures have forbidden it between genders outside of marriage (see Orthodox Judaism for example) but they have been exceptional and have some difficulties with those rules when interacting with the secular world.


Should we have prior consent for all communication?
  #76  
Old 05-03-2019, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Heh. I see you've been around elementary school students.
My own kids were once that age
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:14 PM
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I'm wondering if the real object of concern should be gendered touch, or Bidening.

If there's a kind of touch you're only willing to give to women, but not to men, maybe that's the problem?
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:19 PM
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Should we have prior consent for all communication?
I totally wouldn't mind. I'm at the grocery store looking for something,with my earbuds in, listening to a podcast. A stranger taps me on the shoulder. I have to turn off my podcast, remove my earbuds, get my hearing aid container out of my pocket, power up the device, put it in my ear, and say, "yes?".

"Ummmmmmm. . . Do you know what aisle the pickles are in, they used to be right after the mustard, but they aren't anymore. My husband likes pickles, but not the sour kind."
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:25 PM
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It's not that important to touch people at work. The benefits are not so tremendously great that they outweigh all the negatives. If no one touched anyone at work there would hardly be any difference. Say "Excuse me" to get someone's attention. If they don't respond, say it louder. Tell someone they did a good job without putting their hand on their shoulder. They'll still get the compliment and you won't have to worry if they're icked out by being touched. It's almost always unnecessary to touch someone at work. Certainly it can be effective in some case, but that doesn't mean that it's the only way and that non-contact methods would be ineffective. I highly doubt that the man touched her wrist as a last resort to get her to stop talking. It sounds like it's the first thing he did. Why not just say "Let's table it until next time" and leave out the touch?

And in this example:
Quote:
And I've been gently touched during same monthly meeting by male and female docs next to me in these same meetings to get my attention to ask something (relevant to the main discussion) in a whisper that would not disrupt the meeting.
Although that's pretty benign touching, it would probably be just about as effective if they just said your name first instead of touching "DSeid... what did they mean by that". I can't imagine that it would be impossible or disruptive to get your attention without touching.

And this is sidestepping the issue that touch is often part of real sexual harassment: That the touch is sometimes done because one person is attracted to the other and wants to engage in physical contact. The harasser starts with something small that can be explained away if the person objects. "Oh, I was just trying to get her attention." And then the accuser is made to like they get offended easily because they made the accusation. If a "no touching in the office" rule makes harassment that much harder, I'm all for it.
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I'm wondering if the real object of concern should be gendered touch, or Bidening.

If there's a kind of touch you're only willing to give to women, but not to men, maybe that's the problem?
Well, there are several kinds of touch I'm only willing to give to women.
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:42 PM
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I'm wondering if the real object of concern should be gendered touch, or Bidening.

If there's a kind of touch you're only willing to give to women, but not to men, maybe that's the problem?
Yeah, this particular type of touch, where a man puts his hand on a woman's wrist, seems skeevy to me.

A light tap on the shoulder to get the attention of somebody in front of you is one thing, although even then I'd be prepared to apologize for so tapping if the tappee seemed to object to it.

But putting your hand on the wrist of somebody you're sitting next to is gratuitous, and reads as a gesture of control, like gentling a skittish horse. And since heterosexual handholding or hand-stroking is coded as a romantic caress, a man gently touching a woman's wrist also comes across as a romantically or sexually possessive gesture, which... just, ewww.

Fist bumps, shoulder taps, etc., can come across differently in different circumstances. But AFAICT there is nothing about this particular instance of co-worker-touching that isn't spraying the message "Let me just quiet this dear overexcited little woman down, folks" all over the place. Irrespective of the wrist-stroker's actual intention, that just seems patronizing and creepy.

Last edited by Kimstu; 05-03-2019 at 03:43 PM.
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:48 PM
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I tend to agree, Kimstu. I also think touching SKIN is really different than touching clothes. For most of my co-workers, I would be comfortable tapping them on their shoulder if they were blocking my way or something. But I wouldn't tap a bare shoulder if someone was in a sleeveless top.

So much of this is just about being sensitive to people's cues and recognizing that it is their right to set their boundaries where they wish, without needing to defend or explain themselves.
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:49 PM
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In Left Hand of Dorkness's situation, I suspect that women are generally pretty good at reading others and sensing when and where it's OK to casually touch a colleague in a close-knit group. Yes, some men are, too, and some women are not. But because so many people either

can't sense when, where, and what kind of touch is OK
resent any such restrictions and find other ways to touch people, particularly women, in a condescending, paternalitic, or inappropriate way

all-out bans are often necessary.

There's touching the wrist and then there's touching the wrist. It can be done in a way that's subtly paternalistic or sexualized, or it can be done in an impersonal way. The difference is subtle, so much so that some people are going to roll their eyes reading that and say "Oh, my God! Really? People are way too sensitive!"" Those people lack the ability to understand these subtle differences and are the very reason such broad bans are necessary. That's not an accusation; just a fact.

And LHOD, I don't have an elem kid now, but my son's second grade teacher gave her students a choice as they filed out of the classroom each day: a hug, a handshake, a high five, or just a verbal good-bye. Some kids chose no contact one day and a hug the next. Some never wanted physical contact. Some always did. The kids had total say, no pressures. I thought it was great, and so did my son.
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:54 PM
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Well, there are several kinds of touch I'm only willing to give to women.

That's pretty sexist and/or homophobic of you, ain't it ?
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:56 PM
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That's pretty sexist and/or homophobic of you, ain't it ?
No. It's not something I'd say, but it's neither sexist nor homophobic to only want to be touched in a certain way by the same or the opposite sex (or an anime covered in mint jello singing the Oscar Mayer Weiner theme). This is what we call 'being human'.
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:56 PM
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That's pretty sexist and/or homophobic of you, ain't it ?
It's not sexist to have a sexual preference, and it's not (inherently) homophobic to be male and straight. Try not to get carried away here.
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:58 PM
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I'm curious about those who feel strongly that a woman (or anyone being touched at work in a way that makes them uncomfortable) should confront the toucher first before going to HR. Surely if the touching in question were so obviously benign that the parties could have worked it out themselves, HR will take that into consideration instead of just firing the guy. Unless of course there's a history, because he makes a habit of touching the new girl in a way that makes her uncomfortable, but that isn't overtly sexual, so he has some plausible deniability... If everyone reports everything, HR will know whether this is one guy bothering a bunch of women who all get along fine with all the other men, or one woman who complains a lot about everyone, or some other dynamic. But if the new girls never report the touchy dude because they don't want to make waves their first week on the job, he could get away with doing this to a lot of women by just moving on to the next one as soon as his current victim gets ready to stand up for herself.
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:02 PM
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I'm curious about those who feel strongly that a woman (or anyone being touched at work in a way that makes them uncomfortable) should confront the toucher first before going to HR. Surely if the touching in question were so obviously benign that the parties could have worked it out themselves, HR will take that into consideration instead of just firing the guy. Unless of course there's a history, because he makes a habit of touching the new girl in a way that makes her uncomfortable, but that isn't overtly sexual, so he has some plausible deniability... If everyone reports everything, HR will know whether this is one guy bothering a bunch of women who all get along fine with all the other men, or one woman who complains a lot about everyone, or some other dynamic. But if the new girls never report the touchy dude because they don't want to make waves their first week on the job, he could get away with doing this to a lot of women by just moving on to the next one as soon as his current victim gets ready to stand up for herself.
They should start by reporting it to their supervisor, unless the toucher is said supervisor. If their supervisor doesn't take action, or if the toucher is the supervisor then they should go to HR. It might actually be best to do both...talk to the supervisor, then go and see HR. Also...write it up, immediately. Note down the time and what happened in a text file or email or whatever, but get it down.

No one should have to put up with this crap...ever. And no one should be afraid to come forward if something was said or done that makes them uncomfortable.
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:03 PM
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The problem from my point of view is that there's an assumption in this statement : the assumption that tapping him (or touching him in general) is inherently wrong, and can only become acceptable if there's an imperative reason for it.
You appear not to have noticed your assumption that his standing next to your tripod was an invasion of your space; or, for that matter, your assumption that there was an imperative reason for tapping him, rather than just speaking to him. You said that you did speak to him, so there can't have been any inherent reason for not speaking.

All of us have back-of-the-head assumptions. Realizing which ones we're making, and that others may not have the same ones, is a good idea. You're assuming that it's inherently fine to unexpectedly touch a stranger.

It might in fact have backfired. Some people will jump if unexpectedly touched; which could have caused the tripod to get knocked over.

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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I'm genuinely bewildered by some of the attitudes here, because social norms are so different where I work. It's a primarily (like 80%+) female work environment, and there's a lot of casual touching. A hand on the shoulder is a very common and efficient way to get someone's attention, and I've both used it and received it very often. Co-workers don't hug a lot, but I definitely see hugs, especially with a teacher friend from a different school that you see at a meeting. Some coworkers will put a hand on your arm while telling a story.

A couple of weeks ago, the question of workplace touching came up, and I told a fellow teacher about our previous thread on the subject, and about the folks who said there should be no workplace touching at all. She was totally contemptuous: "That's not assault," she said, "That's just normal human interaction."

It may be different in part because we're a pretty tight-knit group
This is indeed entirely normal behaviour among some groups of people. And, given that you're a tight-knit group in which everyone's in agreement about it, there isn't any problem.

One of the other market vendors is clearly used to this. She routinely tries to hold my arm or tap on me when talking (which we do fairly often.) I've asked her not to; sometimes she remembers, sometimes she doesn't. When she does it, I back away from her, and then she remembers and apologizes. She's in poor health, dealing with a family member who's in even poorer health, and does try to apologize; I cut her some slack. I also often pre-emptively try to stay on the other side of the table from her.

But it is not normal behavior in most work contexts I've been in.


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Have you discussed your condition with a physician?
WTF?

Because I'm different than you are you think you're entitled to declare that there's something wrong with me?


-- and even if there were: that wouldn't entitle you to handle me against my will.

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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
If I'm talking with a student about how they added some numbers together, trying to figure out where they went wrong, and another teacher has a super-quick question for me about whether we're going out for recess despite the rain earlier that morning, the teacher's got a few choices:

1) Stand behind me and wait. This may take several minutes, depending on what I'm doing.
2) Touch my shoulder to get my attention. This lets me finish my thought before turning my attention to them.
3) Interrupt me verbally.

I would much rather the teacher do 2 than 1 or 3. The verbal interruption can be disorienting, and I get way more annoyed at verbal interruptions than I do at a shoulder-touch.
I would much rather the teacher do 4): Move into my line of view and then stand there and wait; possibly holding up one finger to indicate that only one moment's time is required.

I'll then notice that they're waiting, and will be able to decide when, as you say, is a good pause point to give them attention, possibly holding up a finger of my own to acknowledge -- or to hold up more fingers in return, to indicate that I'd be right with them but not quite that fast.

The shoulder touch would interrupt my thought even more than a verbal interruption; so if the line of sight technique wouldn't work, then I'd prefer the verbal one. If the people in question routinely work together, it should be possible to sort out between them who prefers which technique; but simply assuming that a shoulder touch is the least intrusive strikes me as a bad idea.

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Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
Non-sexual touch has been part of normal communication, well, forever.
Yes, of course it has. Since long before we were humans.

For most of forever, of course, it was, most of the time, between people who knew each other well.

It's also often been between a person who has far more choice in the matter and one who has less. For much of human history, a subordinate who didn't want to be touched by a superior generally had no choice in the matter.

And it is, indeed, still a part of normal communication. I don't think anyone's suggesting that people should never, in any context, touch each other. What's being said is that in most (not all) work contexts touch should not be assumed; and in social contexts, unless the toucher knows from previous interactions with the individual that touch is fine, the approach should be made in such a fashion as to allow rejection. That doesn't need to be verbal. Want to hug somebody at a party, or a co-worker found weeping in the bathroom? Move partly toward them with your arms held out, and notice whether they're coming into the hug, or backing off, or holding out one hand.
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:04 PM
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We can't have rules based on the outliers. If you are unusually sensitive to something -- simple touches, the smell of popcorn, the sound of someone breathing or eating -- your hypersensitivity can't be the basis for societal rules.

However, there are some general guidelines that I think make sense.

In any situation in which it is difficult to communicate with speech, perhaps because an airplane is flying low overhead, or a train is approaching, or someone is speaking at the lectern or a movie is being shown and it would be rude to others to make noise -- a simple touch to get someone's attention should be considered acceptable for simple situations, like -- watch out for my tripod, or move your head out of the way of my view, or you dropped your wallet/phone, or there's food on your face, or watch out, the service cart is coming through.

However, beyond that limited situation, touching should be avoided in the workplace without prior consent or a level of intimacy beyond mere workplace colleagues. So, you don't touch someone to get them to stop talking, especially if it's a man doing it to a woman, especially because it's one of the ways that male dominance has historically been enforced in workplaces.

You might offer to shake hands, but you don't grab someone's hand to force a shake, or you don't hug someone without their prior consent. And so on ...
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:25 PM
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I don't like to be touched. The first time, I tell the person "Don't touch me. I don't like it." The second time, I go to human resources.

The last time I checked, my job description did not include being physically touched by anyone.
Remember, HR is not your friend.

But yes, tell them "I don't like being touched" first.
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:26 PM
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It's not that important to touch people at work. The benefits are not so tremendously great that they outweigh all the negatives. If no one touched anyone at work there would hardly be any difference. Say "Excuse me" to get someone's attention. If they don't respond, say it louder. Tell someone they did a good job without putting their hand on their shoulder. They'll still get the compliment and you won't have to worry if they're icked out by being touched. It's almost always unnecessary to touch someone at work. Certainly it can be effective in some case, but that doesn't mean that it's the only way and that non-contact methods would be ineffective. I highly doubt that the man touched her wrist as a last resort to get her to stop talking. It sounds like it's the first thing he did. Why not just say "Let's table it until next time" and leave out the touch?

It's not that you can't manage to communicate the same things without touching someone most of the time, it's rather : why would you want to communicate without touching? Why would it be preferable not to touch every time touching can be avoided?

It is this idea that shows a switch in attitudes. It might seems completely obvious to you that it's better this way, but touching used to be a perfectly normal part of interactions, and people used not to feel there was any reason to avoid touching even if they could. And not to feel that they had to wonder about the hidden reasons or implications of being touched because being touched was normal.




Quote:
And this is sidestepping the issue that touch is often part of real sexual harassment: That the touch is sometimes done because one person is attracted to the other and wants to engage in physical contact. The harasser starts with something small that can be explained away if the person objects. "Oh, I was just trying to get her attention." And then the accuser is made to like they get offended easily because they made the accusation. If a "no touching in the office" rule makes harassment that much harder, I'm all for it.
That participates of the same evolution. If it's perfectly normal to be touched, you have no reason to wonder why you're being touched. And even if the person touching is in fact secretly attracted to you, it still doesn't matter because he doesn't do anything abnormal or that others don't do.

To give an example : it's currently perfectly normal for a man to talk to a woman, say about the weather or their last vacations. It might be that the reason why this man talks to her is because he's attracted to her and wants to get into her pants. But the reason why he talks to her is immaterial : he does nothing offensive anyway, and nothing that others don't do. Nobody will demand not to be talked to just in case someone talking to them might have something more in mind.

That's I think where the switch is obvious. At this point in time, touching has become sufficiently "abnormal" for people to wonder why people touch you (as you thinking about exerting control) and what motivations they have (are they attracted) and to think that it is relevant in deciding whether touching is acceptable or not, to feel that this is a legitimate concern, and to have difficulties accepting the idea that in a society where casual touching is an accepted and normal behavior, there's no more reason to scrutinize the secret motives for touching anymore than there's a reason in our current society to scrutinize the secret motives someone might have to talk to you or shake your hand. Touching isn't anymore a normal way of communicating.
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  #93  
Old 05-03-2019, 04:29 PM
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I don't remember Never Touch Anybody Else Ever being a rule from my own elementary school days. I think there might have been situations where kids were specifically directed to hold hands, like when crossing the street or playing Red Rover.

I didn't see the original thread (or any other) where this was already discussed. I don't think there's anything at all inherently wrong with that kind of touching. But if the person doesn't want to be touched, you don't touch them. Which is why it makes a big difference whether this was a "first offense" with no previous indication that she hated being touched, or not.
I will point out that lightly touching a subordinate on the shoulder or shaking their hand is recommended by the One Minute Manager, a very highly recommended book that is likely on the shelf there in HR.

So there is nothing weird or unprofessional with such.
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:31 PM
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Don't touch people at work other than handshakes.



While I don't think this touch was sexual in nature, it was an example of sexual inequality. ..... It might as well be HR who does it.
HR is not your friend. HR may indeed talk to him, but just as likely you will go down as a 'troublemaker" or "problem child".


Talk to the person first.
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:36 PM
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Czarcasm, you keep asking if men do this to other men, posters keep saying 'yes' and you keep ignoring the answer you don't like and asking it again. Yes I've seen men touch other men to ask a question or get their attention in a non-threatening way. It happens. It's not viewed as harassment and it's not only a male to female thing.
....
Yep, I have seen guys touch other guys in a professional setting, not just handshakes. In fact after I got done doing a solid job as a contractor, the Male CEO gave me a hug*. Men have put their hand on my shoulder to indicate solidarity or caring.

* and female bosses have hugged me also.
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by clairobscur View Post
It's not that you can't manage to communicate the same things without touching someone most of the time, it's rather : why would you want to communicate without touching? Why would it be preferable not to touch every time touching can be avoided?

It is this idea that shows a switch in attitudes. It might seems completely obvious to you that it's better this way, but touching used to be a perfectly normal part of interactions, and people used not to feel there was any reason to avoid touching even if they could. And not to feel that they had to wonder about the hidden reasons or implications of being touched because being touched was normal.
Well, I personally don't like being touched because touching people is a weird and foreign behavior that people I know don't engage in. Persons who do touch people can thus be reasonably presumed to be invading alien beings intent on world domination. Pod people, the lot of you.
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:41 PM
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You appear not to have noticed your assumption that his standing next to your tripod was an invasion of your space; or, for that matter, your assumption that there was an imperative reason for tapping him, rather than just speaking to him. You said that you did speak to him, so there can't have been any inherent reason for not speaking.
You're mistaking me for the poster who told the story about the tripod.
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:47 PM
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Touching isn't anymore a normal way of communicating.
From my perspective .... Yipee!! I've never liked being touched in casual conversations. Even as a kid I didn't like it when a teacher would touch me in that situation. It felt creepy and controlling even if it was in a positive situation. I don't care what the motivations were, I didn't want it. And I don't like it in the workplace because there's always the issue of what happens if I pull back, say something, indicate I don't like it. What will the other person think and what repercussions can happen. I also have to think about avoiding that person, don't sit next to them, move away, etc. so they don't have the opportunity. Typing it here makes it sound worse than it is, but it's something I don't like so I avoid those people and prefer it not be in the workplace at all.

I'm reminded of that picture of Bush giving Merkel a surprise shoulder massage in a meeting where she reacts by throwing her arms up. I'm sure the types like Bush and Biden see nothing wrong with that, but Merkel sure looked uncomfortable.
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:52 PM
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No. It's not something I'd say, but it's neither sexist nor homophobic to only want to be touched in a certain way by the same or the opposite sex (or an anime covered in mint jello singing the Oscar Mayer Weiner theme). This is what we call 'being human'.

Did you just assume my species ? How absolutely dare you ?!


(PS : woosh)
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Old 05-03-2019, 05:14 PM
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clairobscur, apologies for the mixup.

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Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
We can't have rules based on the outliers. If you are unusually sensitive to something -- simple touches, the smell of popcorn, the sound of someone breathing or eating -- your hypersensitivity can't be the basis for societal rules.

However, there are some general guidelines that I think make sense.

In any situation in which it is difficult to communicate with speech, perhaps because an airplane is flying low overhead, or a train is approaching, or someone is speaking at the lectern or a movie is being shown and it would be rude to others to make noise -- a simple touch to get someone's attention should be considered acceptable for simple situations, like -- watch out for my tripod, or move your head out of the way of my view, or you dropped your wallet/phone, or there's food on your face, or watch out, the service cart is coming through.

However, beyond that limited situation, touching should be avoided in the workplace without prior consent or a level of intimacy beyond mere workplace colleagues. So, you don't touch someone to get them to stop talking, especially if it's a man doing it to a woman, especially because it's one of the ways that male dominance has historically been enforced in workplaces.

You might offer to shake hands, but you don't grab someone's hand to force a shake, or you don't hug someone without their prior consent. And so on ...
I'm probably among the outliers in degree of reaction; but there are quite a lot of people who don't want to be touched in professional situations, or unexpectedly by strangers. I don't think that was an outlier-only position, even twenty or forty years ago; though I'm sure that it depended on the workplace, and very likely on the particular area.

But I think your guidelines aren't bad, except that 1) in some cases putting yourself or a hand in the line of view to attract attention will work just as well and be less disruptive and 2) I don't see why you couldn't wait for the plane to finish going over before telling me verbally if there's food on my face; at least, unless the client's about to walk in the door before the plane's gone. Your other examples are all things I might not want to wait even briefly before finding out about.

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Originally Posted by clairobscur View Post
It's not that you can't manage to communicate the same things without touching someone most of the time, it's rather : why would you want to communicate without touching? Why would it be preferable not to touch every time touching can be avoided?

It is this idea that shows a switch in attitudes.
I think the switch in attitudes is less that nobody was bothered by it before, and more that people who are bothered about it are now saying something about it.

And it might have something to do with mixing people up from different areas and different cultures. That mixing has also been common for a long time, but I think it's more commonly acknowledged now both that there are such differences, and that they aren't always best dealt with by 'the way we do it here is the only way that's normal! so do it our way!'.

I mean different cultures in different areas within the USA, also. I would have been pretty startled, even back say in the 1970's, to have someone at a business meeting reach over and touch me. I wouldn't say it never happened; but it certainly wasn't IME routine. For that matter, though children of course routinely touched each other on the playground and at games (as I presume and hope they still do, though I hope now not if a particular child objects to it), even back in grade school in the 1950's if a child at the next desk reached over and poked you during class it was likely to be (usually accurately) assumed that the kid was trying to be annoying; close friends sometimes excepted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
I will point out that lightly touching a subordinate on the shoulder or shaking their hand is recommended by the One Minute Manager, a very highly recommended book that is likely on the shelf there in HR.
I notice that you don't say the book recommends touching a superior on the shoulder.

So I think if anything that backs the claim that such touch is often meant to be controlling.

Shaking hands, I note, is mutual touch, generally the same in both directions. That puts it in a different category; though there are both cultures, and individuals, who don't go in for it.
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