Keep In Touch

January 28, 2015

By: Madison Romney

We all use this phrase: whether it be a cheerful reminder after catching up with past neighbors or a hopeful farewell to soon to be “old” friends when embarking on our journey to college. While saying “keep in touch” in these instances makes perfect sense within our social norms, we don’t actually mean what we say. The “touch” we’re referring to is a form of communication, not physical contact. What we really mean is “Keep the connection” or “Don’t forget to call!” We’re seeking out verbal re-connection. Because of this, we can assume that this phrase cannot be taken literally.

But it can, and it should.

One of our founders at the Center for Positive Organizations, Jane Dutton, teaches the course MO455: Positive Organizational Scholarship, which has recently been focused on building High Quality Connections (HQCs). Jane has discovered, through her extensive research on HQCs, that anytime we “feel attuned to one another and experience a sense of worth or value” we are probably taking part in a HQC. These exceptionally energetic and flourishing connections, in fact, don’t even have to be rooted in developed relationships at all. They can simply be a fleeting instance or micromoment where you felt, (pick any adjective): inspired, valued, cheerful, elated, relaxed, enthusiastic, understood, or any positive emotion you can think of.

This concept of micro-moments as profound connection is perfectly depicted in “Touching Strangers”, a short, yet powerful video Jane displayed for us in class. New York photographer, Richard Renaldi (who I’d love to see visit the Center soon) fosters moments of HQCs by giving opportunities for strangers to become “unlikely intimates” though experiencing, you guessed it, physical touch! I instantly chuckled to myself when watching the innate awkwardness between people due to their first physical contact. It made me think of all the dreadfully embarrassing moments when I’ve gone for the hug and they have gone for the handshake. Surprisingly, after a few moments, these people seemed to enter a state of ease with one another, a state similar to that I enter when I figure out in which relationships we hug and in which we shake. One man even went so far as to say that he felt like he cared for the older woman he had only been embracing for a few minutes. If something as simple as touch could create a connection of this quality for two strangers, imagine what it could do for our relationships with family, friends, and teammates.

I don’t know about you, but after learning this life-altering finding, I had an extreme desire to go give a great big hug to members of my family, all of my friends, my Organization Studies classmates, and even some extraordinary professors. Watch out, Jane! The possibilities for fostering HQCs are endless, and physical touch can boost the positive effects that occur when we build these types of connections. Touch breaks down walls we didn’t even know existed and allows us to open up to the possibilities of micro-moment interactions. So, if you are at any level of a company or organization and you want to build high quality connections, try starting the day by giving everyone a high five, shaking their hands, or welcoming them with a pat on the back. Just remember to keep in touch.