How do I tell my friends I hate being hugged?

University of Leeds
2 min readFeb 1, 2024

‘I often feel uncomfortable in situations where I have to hug people or make any physical contact. I know it’s normal for others, but it makes me feel weird, like my boundaries have been violated. I don’t know how to tell people that I don’t want to be touched. Am I overreacting? How can I voice this without upsetting anyone or seeming dramatic?’

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It’s very normal for everyone to have different boundaries and reactions when thinking about their physical space. Feeling uncomfortable about things you feel forced to engage with, like hugging, is not overreacting or dramatic.

When we think about consent, we often assume we are referring to sexual acts. While sexual consent is defined in law, everyday consent refers to a broader range of behaviours including respecting space, valuing individual decisions and recognising boundaries. Consent matters between all people including with your friends, family, course mates, house mates, lecturers, a sexual partner, or someone else.

It means clearly communicating to check that everyone involved is giving permission and feels comfortable for something to happen. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it’s as easy as understanding ‘FRIES’.

Image that says: ‘Consent is… Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, Specific’

You can voice your boundaries by saying ‘hugging feels uncomfortable for me, can we just say ‘hello’ instead?’. Read more about consent — including how to recognise, remove and respect it.

Everyday consent means respecting privacy, asking for permission and accepting ‘no’. When we practice asking for and acknowledging consent, we are showing up for those we care about.

You are not alone. If you’ve experienced any kind of violence, abuse, bullying, harassment, sexual misconduct or discrimination, we’re here to help. Explore support options available in our community, including specialist support offered by the Harassment and Misconduct team here at Leeds.

Written by Charlotte Webster, Harassment and Misconduct team