I thought about how much I should leave her. She kept the beers coming and she was easy on the eyes. I like her, I thought; she deserves a little extra. My focus shifted from the story about that girl my friend tells every time he’s drunk to “what kind of tip will impress this lady?” When she returned to ask about the next round, I watched her put her hand on my friend’s shoulder. I instantly filled with jealousy, and once again contemplated my tip. I ended up leaving the standard tip, nothing flashy.

What put me through the gamut of emotions? It began with a simple touch on the arm. At one point in the night, the waitress put her hand on my shoulder while asking if I was ready for round three. That slight touch sent me to the moon. It made me think she was interested. When I saw her touch my friend’s arm, I snapped out of it. I realized she used contact in a calculated manner. She knew how it affected people, and used that to her benefit.

Touch is a simple, but powerful, tool. People utilize it in different ways for different occasions. It gives people a feeling of love, familiarity, and trust. Some people understand the effects of touch without really knowing the science behind it. I would be willing to bet that those who understand touch are not aware of why they do it. It is embedded into our genetic code. People are social animals, and building bonds is a necessity. Once you understand the basics of touch, you can begin consciously applying it to your benefit.

Several studies delve into why touch has an overwhelmingly positive effect on people. It’s clear that touch is an effective tool in building trust, and scientists seek the answers as to why that is. The prevailing theory is that contact with another person releases a hormone called oxytocin into the system.

Oxytocin plays a large role in human development. It begins at childbirth when the hormone releases into the uterus. Oxytocin also gets released during lactation in order to build a trusting bond between mother and child. The hormone continues to persist throughout life, especially during orgasm and touch. Oxytocin is basically a feel-good hormone. It helps create social bonds, and builds trust.

The key aspect of focus is touch. This hormone gets released because of contact. That means that a simple touch facilitates all the positive characteristics of oxytocin. Following that idea, it becomes clear how someone could utilize touch to their advantage. There are limitless applications in a social setting.

Think about the people you engage in physical contact with. Friends, family, and other loved ones surely come to mind. This is because you trust and care for them. These are the people you have a natural rapport with. You do not have to limit yourselves to loved ones. Start to touch everyone. Don’t make it weird; just keep it to a few touches on the arm. It allows you to build trust and rapport with new people. When people trust you, they are more willing to do favors.

Touch makes it easier to get someone to do something for you. Take this example: I have a boss who recently started to incorporate touching. She asked me to complete all my tasks for the night, and then patted me on the shoulder. Later I found myself working harder. I wanted to please her. I knew the touch happened, and I knew what it meant, but it still affected me. It seems so small, but the effects are huge. A touch when asking for a favor tilts the odds in your favor. It makes the person a little more trusting.

Touch is a great tool for influence. Let’s go back to my original example with the waitress. She touched me because she knew I would respond positively. After all, it’s not every day a woman touches you. When she touched me, I started to think that maybe there was an attraction there, which led to me wanting to leave a better tip. Whether that was her intention remains to be seen, but the point stands. This differs from asking for a favor because you are trying to alter the person’s behavior. Perhaps you want someone to agree with something you say: you might put a hand on their arm while asking them if they agree.

I briefly touched on another major application of touch — attraction. Touch is the quickest way to build attraction. In fact, it is arguably the only way to build a real sexual attraction. It is how you say you’re attracted to someone without saying it. Touching to build attraction is an art form. There is a huge difference between blindingly groping at a woman’s breasts and placing your hand on her arm while talking.

Different genders have different ways of utilizing touch. A woman might touch a man as a way of inviting him to touch her, whereas a man might touch a woman to excite her. It is important to note that just because someone touches you does not mean they are sexually interested. Some people are just touchy.

The most difficult part of adding touch to your repertoire is how to pull it off. A good touch will go almost entirely unnoticed. It takes time to master. A poorly executed touch is noticeable instantly. The person being touched is left feeling awkward and uncomfortable. I once had a boss talk to me about a previous night, and the exchange ended with him apologizing over something he misunderstood. As we parted ways, he reached out and touched my back. His movements were slow, and he kept his hand on me a moment too long. I cringed immediately. A bad touch draws unnecessary attention. You begin to focus on the touch rather than the feelings that accompany it.

A final point worth mentioning is the effect of touching your own neck, face, arms, hands, and the like. Everyone does it. I had a boss who rubbed his hairy neck every time something stressed him out, which seemed to be always. The keyword is stress. The self-touching acts as soothing technique. Scattered all over our bodies are little bundle of nerves. During moments of duress it is common to rub these nerves. Doing this helps to relax the body. It’s highly effective, and the body usually does it unconsciously.

Touch is one of those things that everyone does, but few know how to use it to their advantage. It’s a great tool to help develop new relationships, whether sexual or platonic. Try to pay attention to when people touch you, and more important, try to touch others more often.