Is it offensive or impolite to pat someone on one's shoulder?

This is a discussion thread · 25 replies
1 2 3
Celery:
Is it considered polite to pat someone on one's shoulder so as to greet someone (please be noted that both of them are male.)? Is this act considered offensive or harassing in some cultures? How will you react if someone pats you on your shoulder?
Thanks in advance for your input
This thread originates from within 'usenet', and as such the content and users are not guaranteed to have been moderated by our community.
CyberCypher:
Celery wrote on 08 Jul 2004:
[nq:1]Is it considered polite to pat someone on one's shoulder so as to greet someone (please be noted that both of them are male.)? Is this act considered offensive or harassing in some cultures? How will you react if someone pats you on your shoulder?[/nq]
It all depends on who it is, doesn't it. For a stranger to pat me on the shoulder would be offensive. For a friend to do it might be another story: it depends on the friend and on our relationship. Generally, I don't like anyone not in my immediate family to put their hands on me for any reason.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, replace numbers with English alphabet.
This thread originates from within 'usenet', and as such the content and users are not guaranteed to have been moderated by our community.
Tony Cooper:
[nq:1]Is it considered polite to pat someone on one's shoulder so as to greet someone (please be noted that both ... in some cultures? How will you react if someone pats you on your shoulder? Thanks in advance for your input[/nq]
The act itself is not impolite, but it may be impolitic. There are some people - and I am one of them - that really don't care to be touched by anyone other than small children and immediate family members.
I'm not obsessive about it as some are, but I really don't care for it. If I'm having a conversation with someone, and they lightly place a hand on my arm or shoulder, I feel uncomfortable and back away. The hand on my knee in a seated conversation is especially uncomfortable for me. I am equally uncomfortable if the other person is male or female.
When I watch a television show like "The Sopranos" and see all that contact with men hugging men, I feel kind of squirmy. I can't imagine doing that. I avoid Mafia-types since I'm afraid I'll offend them by backing away and not reciprocating hugs. It's worked well so far since I've never met a "made man".
This thread originates from within 'usenet', and as such the content and users are not guaranteed to have been moderated by our community.
CB:
[nq:2]Is it considered polite to pat someone on one's shoulder ... you on your shoulder? Thanks in advance for your input[/nq]
[nq:1]The act itself is not impolite, but it may be impolitic. There are some people - and I am one ... them by backing away and not reciprocating hugs. It's worked well so far since I've never met a "made man".[/nq]
Generally, the shoulder and the arm are safe places for one adult male to touch another, when necessary*, even if they are not closely acquainted. Women have more latitude about whom and when to touch. There is a lot of cultural variation in this, even in the Western world. Edward T. Hall has written a fascinating series of books on that and related subjects, of which several are in still print. A good one to read, if you want to pursue the subject, is The Silent Language . CB
*I once helped an elderly Sikh couple to find their way to an address. In thanking me, the man laid his hand on my head. I had to control my impulse, natural in a man of my (English/North American) culture, to pull away quickly.
This thread originates from within 'usenet', and as such the content and users are not guaranteed to have been moderated by our community.
Larry Preuss:
[nq:2]Is it considered polite to pat someone on one's shoulder ... you on your shoulder? Thanks in advance for your input[/nq]
[nq:1]The act itself is not impolite, but it may be impolitic. There are some people - and I am one of them - that really don't care to be touched by anyone other than small children and immediate family members.[/nq]
When I was in medical school one of our most successful clinicians taught us that when on hospital rounds we could (should?) lightly touch the patient as we talked with them: a man on the shoulder, a woman on the hand. To demonstrate this, one day before our group visited a new patient he asked a medical student to touch the woman's hand as we discussed her. The next day when we went into her room the woman looked around, spotted that medical student and said, "Good morning, doctor." Larry
This thread originates from within 'usenet', and as such the content and users are not guaranteed to have been moderated by our community.
Bob Cunningham:
[nq:1]Generally, the shoulder and the arm are safe places for one adult male to touch another, when necessary*, even if ... . CB[/nq]
Watching John Kerry lightly embrace his newly appointed running mate, I was reminded of Dan Quayle trying to hug George Bush père right after Quayle's candidacy was announced, and Bush being apparently annoyed by it.

Different strokes for different presidents.
This thread originates from within 'usenet', and as such the content and users are not guaranteed to have been moderated by our community.
Pat Durkin:
[nq:1]Celery wrote on 08 Jul 2004:[/nq]
[nq:2]Is it considered polite to pat someone on one's shoulder ... will you react if someone pats you on your shoulder?[/nq]
[nq:1]It all depends on who it is, doesn't it. For a stranger to pat me on the shoulder would be ... relationship. Generally, I don't like anyone not in my immediate family to put their hands on me for any reason.[/nq]
I'm with you on this. For bosses and other strangers to pat me on the back or shoulders (Atta boy!) I interpret viscerally as condescension. I find it humiliating. But, then, I haven't ever been a "team player".
This thread originates from within 'usenet', and as such the content and users are not guaranteed to have been moderated by our community.
Areff:
[nq:1]I am equally uncomfortable if the other person is male or female.[/nq]
As opposed to what, Coop? (Hi Liebs!)
This thread originates from within 'usenet', and as such the content and users are not guaranteed to have been moderated by our community.
Don A. Gilmore:
[nq:1]When I was in medical school one of our most successful clinicians taught us that when on hospital rounds we ... day when we went into her room the woman looked around, spotted that medical student and said, "Good morning, doctor."[/nq]
I think you've struck on it! It's OK as long as it's the opposite sex!

As long as a guy isn't too touchy-feely I don't mind a "hello" or "goodbye" pat on the back and I warmly welcome a good handshake. A woman can touch me anywhere she likes!
(paraphrased)
George Costanza: "What is it with women and that whole 'touch your elbow when they laugh' thing? I love that! Why can't guys get away with that in return?"
Jerry Seinfeld: "I don't know; they're on another level."

Don
Kansas City
This thread originates from within 'usenet', and as such the content and users are not guaranteed to have been moderated by our community.
Show more
Live chat
Registered users can join here