Why Not Hug Strangers? – A Video Experiment



What happens when you hug strangers?

Andrew Hales of LAHWF wanted me to find out.

The above video took place in Dolores Park in San Francisco last Thursday, around 5:30pm. All people hugged are complete strangers.

Andrew challenged me to make the awkward even more awkward:

  • Could I score a hug by simply standing like a zombie with my arms out? (He’s good at this)
  • Could I go for the “long hold” and hug someone for 5 seconds, 10 seconds, or more?
  • Could I hug without saying anything? (Not my strong suit, it turns out)

To make things more interesting, Andrew accidentally–or purposefully?–started the filming at the famously gay southwest corner of Dolores.

Oh, boy…


In other news, if you’re looking for a short essay to jumpstart your week, this might be what the doctor ordered: “6 Formulas for More Output and Less Overwhelm.”

Posted on: May 18, 2014.

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89 comments on “Why Not Hug Strangers? – A Video Experiment

  1. That is awesome! I love the hugging! It’s crazy that most of the time I walk by people and say hi and smile and they do NOTHING. Friendliness is always a good thing. Sad that people aren’t more friendly.


  2. Well done Tim! That was fantastic! Not sure you would get so many hugs here in Europe!!! SF ppl are reputedly cool. Loved the one who fancied u@the end ” u go gorgeous”‘! Spread more Love! ( i may just do the experiment too)


  3. This video definitely made me smile! By the way, LOVING your podcast! I get so excited every time a new one comes out. Keep up the good work.


  4. I say this respectfully, but hugging in SF is like asking a child if she wants ice cream. Try hugging strangers in Philadelphia….the outcome may not be so pretty :^)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is BRAVE! People’s reactions are really amusing…! Especially when you pretended to know them! ha!

    I’ve done a ‘free hugs’ video and that’s totally different…people approaching YOU for hugs. Brave to approach people to hug you instead!


  6. Man, the difference in body language between the two of you (Tim was smiling, confident, warm, that arm technique) vs Andrew (super shut down, awkward, not smiling) resulted in night and day differences in how people responded. Pretty amazing demonstration of how effective your body language can be at either opening people up or closing people off before you even open your mouth. I’m adding this to my practice of how I interact with folks. The real takeaway of course is that Tim, you most likely made people’s day, while Andrew left them feel icky (I’m not saying Andrew sucks, I’m merely pointing out the effect his body language had on people). The ripples you create in the moment spread and spread. Great job guys!


  7. This is simultaneously the hardest and easiest thing I have ever done and I had a sign that said “Free Hugs”. More interesting, in our experiment, who in our group was willing and who was resistant. You were patient and beautiful in this experiment!


  8. Love it!!! A hug can change someone’s day and ultimately their life. Unfortunately, far too many of us do not get our share of love and personal contact.

    I would live to give a shout out to my dear friends at Hug It Forward. They started on their quest 5+ years ago to change the world 1 hug at a time. Now, they’ve catapulted on that momentum and have built 20+ schools in third world countries.

    Hugs are powerful. :-)


  9. I’ve been doing this since 2008 globally; same response: Open Arms, Smiles, HUGS, and what’s most important, Conversations. Homeless, Executives, Teenagers, Across Cultures and Age. Awesome. Here’s my TEDx from Warsaw Poland about it: http://youtu.be/Pap6TW3y-k0?t=7s


  10. Wouldn’t it be cool to design a company around hugging people? The business model is hugs or dollars. If you don’t want to hug, give a dollar instead in support of a non-profit cause. I bet a lot of people would donate the dollar.


  11. Every day’s a different and a same day. Different because all of us have different lives, different problems, moods and experiences. Same because it’s the particular same day everybody would live. Hugging different people would not make the same result all the time. One might box in the face, one might hug you back, one might run away, or worse one might call a police to have you arrested for harassment (we might not know). It was a great social and cultural experiment, I might say, as one would know how these people would react within different situations they might be in.