The Right Way to Give a Heart-to-Heart Hug

Never could I have imagined that I would:

  1. appreciate how to give the right kind of hug

  2. actually do it

  3. tell others about it 

  4. insist that they do it

  5. write a blog post about it.

But here I am, having fulfilled every one of those.

The story begins last month, when I had the joy, privilege, and honor of being among 150 people to attend HATCH, described as a "think tank meets summer camp". Held in the mountainous grandeur of Big Sky, Montana, HATCH was the most emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually engaging four days I've experienced in my life. I still haven't been able to find the words to describe it, but one of the other attendees wrote a masterful summary of it which is better than anything I could ever craft.

Back to hugs.

As part of their thoughtfully planned yet nimble agenda, HATCH had many short talks on a variety of topics: inspiring stories and journeys, world-changing projects and pursuits, and personal experiences and passions. One in particular stood out to me, and that was by Nadav Wilf of HeroX, who delivered a spirited, experiential talk on how to give a hug. Yes, how to give a hug.

In summary, it goes like this:

  1. Making eye contact, approach the person tilted slightly to your right with arms wide open.

  2. Place your left arm over their right shoulder and your right arm around their left side. Level up or level down to their height. Avoid sticking out your butt.

  3. Bring the person close to you, lining up your heart with theirs. Hold the person for 1-2 seconds, avoiding a pat or rub on their back.

  4. Let go, pull back, and with eye contact, smile at the person.

That's it: a heart-to-heart hug, or the "right" way to give a hug (moving to your right rather than your left). At HATCH, this became the way that both long-time friends and complete strangers began to greet each other. And it made me think about hugs and why we humans do it: to build connectivity and deepen relationships, not just to greet one another. And if creating that connection is indeed a purpose, then it makes a lot of sense to me to give a heart-to-heart hug and avoid the bro-hug, patting hug, side hug, or "keeping my distance" hug that many of us have grown accustomed to.

So upon my return, I told my wife and daughter, my business partner and our team, many of the Junto Apprentices and Alumni, several Junto Mentors, and others about the right way to give a hug. Needless to say, I also had to show them how.

The response has been nothing short of delightful. It has created laughter, stimulated discussion, inspired others to spread the love, and led people to recognize how powerful a "real" hug can be. Even my business partner, Catherine - who made hugging a Junto ritual - was pleasantly surprised when she learned about how to give a hug to build deeper connections.

So, go ahead, try it. And the next time I see you - or meet you for the first time - let's give each other the right kind of hug: a heart-to-heart one.