How do you keep an innocent hug from being interpreted as a sexual shakedown or a ploy for promotion?
Limit work-time hugging to close friends, says Stanley Jones, professor of communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also suggests "covering the hug" with such rituals as greetings, departures and congratulations.
And what about the kind of hug?
Short hugs over long; upper-body over full-frontal hugs. One-armed side hugs -- indicating "just pals" -- are the safest.
Other ideas from a man who takes hugging seriously: Announce "How about a big hug?" as you're stepping toward the person, indicating "Don't take this too seriously." And, most importantly, says Jones, don't caress.
"There are rules behind touching behavior, such as hugging," declares Jones, who recently conducted a study of tactile communication. His seven touch taboos, which generally result in rejection:
* Touching strangers.
* Painful or harmful touches.
* Startling people with a touch, without a warning signal.
* Interfering with someone's focus of attention by touching.
* Moving another person out of the way with touch alone. Moving along with the other person, or verbally "greasing" the move will minimize rejections.
* "Aggressive playful aggression," without a signal in advance such as "Let's wrestle," or "Here comes a bear hug."
* Doubling one up, or rubbing in an aggressive message with touch. For instance, the husband who tells his wife that she's gaining a few pounds -- while patting her midriff bulge -- is asking for trouble.