After a blazing argument, the last thing you normally feel like doing is throwing your arms around the person who you’ve been quarrelling with.
But new research has found that physically embracing (or at least holding hands with) a sparring partner, improves both people’s mood after conflict, and the effect lasts into the next day.
So it might be worth getting over your differences and hugging it out.
The study of 400 people by Carnegie Mellon University, USA, adds to the weight of evidence that human touch has a calming effect on the nerves. It’s also pretty reassuring the person you’re sharing a hug with doesn’t hate you.
Those who hugged the person they’d fought with were more likely to feel positive emotions and less likely to feel negative emotions after the row.
Dr Michael Murphy, who led the study, said: “Non-sexual interpersonal touch is emerging as an important topic in the study of adult social relationships.”
So, this isn’t just about arguments with your sexual partner, but any adults in your life who you get into a fight with.
The topic area has been given more attention as evidence suggests those who engage in more interpersonal touch (hugs, holding hands) are happier and healthier in all aspects of their lives.
“Interpersonal touch is associated with increased attachment security, greater perceived partner support, enhanced intimacy, higher relationship satisfaction, and easier conflict resolution,” says Dr Murphy.
The researchers interviewed 404 men and women for 14 consecutive days about the arguments they had, how they resolved them, and how they felt afterwards. There was a clear correlation between hugs and improved mood.
“Receiving a hug on the day of conflict was associated with improved concurrent negative and positive affect and improved next day negative affect compared to days when conflict occurred but no hug was received,” said Dr Murphy.
Although the research is in its early stages, preliminary results suggest consensual hugging might also be a useful method of providing support to people experiencing ongoing relationship conflict.