The Opposite of Creepy

The Indianapolis Star published an article on my work recently, and of course I delved into the comments to see what people had to say. There were several commenters who said the service was “creepy.”

If I do it right, though, my service will reduce the amount of creepiness in the world.

Creepy, according to the dictionary, means “an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease.” People fear or are uneasy in situations where they don’t know what to expect. I’ve worked very hard to help people understand what to expect when they come in to see me.

That work starts with my client agreement. When I get electronic inquiries, the first thing I do is ask people to review my agreement. It’s short – just 258 words. If you read at average speed, you can read the whole thing in just over a minute. Several people have told me upon reading it that they don’t want to work with me because the agreement is too restrictive. This tells me the agreement is doing its job, helping people to understand the parameters of the session. Hopefully that reduces the sense of unease they feel.

When people complete the screening process and come in to see me, I start out checking in to see how they’re doing and what they want to get out of the session that day. Sometimes clients just want to talk and be heard. Most often, they want to be held. Either way, I let the client lead the session based on what they are looking for that day. Being in control of the helps to reduce any sense of fear or unease.

With both my one on one clients and my group sessions I try and help people get more comfortable expressing what they want. This is where my work starts to reduce the amount of creepiness in the world outside of my office. As people get better at expressing what they want, they also naturally get better at expressing what they don’t want. A lot of behavior that people label creepy is about someone trying to get interaction out of another person who doesn’t care to participate in that interaction. The creepy folk count on the fact that, in polite society, an uncomfortable person is going to stay uncomfortable rather than risk creating a scene.

Once professional cuddling clients or group cuddle participants start practicing and getting comfortable telling other people where their boundaries are, however, the creepy person’s weapon of choice stops working. As long as you feel like its rude to tell someone you don’t want a hug, you’re going to get hugs you don’t want. As soon as it becomes no big deal to say “no” to interaction you don’t want, the amount of interaction that you fear or feel uneasy about drops precipitiously.

When I was at Cuddle Sanctuary’s training this spring, Jean shared a story of one of their regular clients who got catcalled one day by someone, and who had become so comfortable saying “no thank you” in group cuddles that she just automatically responded “no thank you” and went about her day. It was only later she realized that she had rewired her brain to be comfortable saying no to people, and expecting that no to be respected. Her comfort telling people no had disarmed this strangers creepy behavior for her in this situation.

As we practice doing the vulnerable things, they become less scary. As we become less scared of expressing our boundaries, we find more ease in our daily lives. This is something my clients report to me as a result of their sessions. If you’re curious to see if that would work for you, come check out my services in either the one on one or group sessions.

Consent and Courtesy

The salesperson who just called tells me I need to advertise more, which may be true. But I’m not looking to spend money on that today, and I’m pretty sure their platform isn’t the right choice for my business. I explained that politely to the sales person. What he heard, apparently, was a series of objections he wanted to overcome so he could make his commission.

I stated my boundary clearly and politely, and gave the guy a chance to respond to my “this is not the right time for me, but I wish you good luck with your next call. Have a nice afternoon” with a “thank you, please call us when the time is right.”

Instead he decided to do what they teach you in sales training – work to overcome the objections. I’ve read enough sales training to know that a lot if it says never to take no for an answer. It says there is never a reason to accept a no from a potential client, and that if you’re good enough you’ll be able to get a “yes” from everybody.

Apparently, this guy was familiar with those ideas, and he just kept talking after I clearly told him I wasn’t interested. After just a couple of tries to wrap up the conversation, both of which he ignored, I ended the call in the middle of one of his sentences.

I felt a little rude doing that, to be honest.

And yet.

That feeling, that defending my boundaries was a little rude? It’s dangerous. It’s how we end up doing too much, spending too much, sacrificing our sanity and safety in the name of being “nice.”

But what if instead of being nice, we decided to be kind (to ourselves as well as to other people). What if we worked from the assumption that we know what we want better than anybody else does? What if we extended that idea to everybody and assumed each person knows best what they want? What it we stopped feeling like our primary purpose in life was to make other people comfortable?

What if we looked for the ways our boundaries helped the people around us. Nothing this sales person said was going to change my mind about spending money to advertise – especially not with a company who claims they are part of Google (they’re not) and can make me the #1 search result in my area (that’s not how that works.) I don’t have to be mad at the person who called me, after all, they’re simply doing a job and trying to make a living. But I’m also not obligated to waste my time (and theirs)  because I’m not willing to just hang up the phone.

As a business owner, I read a lot of advice about how to market things- and a decent amount of that advice goes against my principles as a consent-based business. I don’t want to be pushy. I don’t want to sell my services to someone who’s really looking for a different type of service. I don’t want to trick anybody into trying what I have to offer because they might like it. That’s not the type of business I want to run. You’re not going to find an invasive pop-up on my website, because I believe that people who want to sign up for my newsletter can find the sign up themselves (it’s shown prominently on the first page, after all.) You’re not going to find me glossing over the “this is definitely platonic” part of my screening call – I want people to be clear about what I offer before they fork over their money.

What you are going to see is me showing up places and sharing what I do. Sharing the benefits of platonic touch with people. Offering free hugs. Offering pay-what-feels-good-to-you community events. I am going to insist on marketing my business in a way that feels authentic and respects other people’s right to make informed choices about whether they want to do business with me or not.

It’s not your typical business model, and it might not work. But it does reflect the sort of world I want and believe we can create.

Are you looking for the same sort of world, but worry that you don’t have the skills to help create it? I specialize in helping people to develop those skills; identifying where their own boundaries are and communicating those boundaries to others. That work can happen in a coaching environment where we never touch, or in a cuddling environment where we can use touch as a workshop took to help develop these skills. Interested in learning more? Book a session today!