Author Topic: Is patting someone on the head rude?  (Read 5565 times)

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Psychopoesie

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Is patting someone on the head rude?
« on: July 20, 2013, 11:41:08 PM »
I read an interesting article* by a disability advocate about how often complete strangers seem to think it's okay to pat her on the head simply because she has a disability (she uses a wheel chair). The author felt the gesture was condescending. She wrote about how she usually feels too humiliated in the moment to say something to the person doing the head patting.

To me, patting a stranger or even someone you've only just met on the head would be rude.
Some of the comments on the article agreed it was inappropriate. A few thought it was part of the culture (apparently we're a touchy-feely bunch in Australia - news to me).

Anyway, was curious about whether Ehellions believe patting someone on the head is okay and, if so, under what circumstances.

*haven't included the article link because I'm trying to avoid the politics (article was prompted by a politician's actions).

EllenS

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2013, 11:52:39 PM »
I think the only time it would not be rude to pat someone on the head, is if it were a very small child in your care or with whom you have an affectionate relationship, or a grown person you are very closely related with (in a jokey way) - spouse, parent, sibling.  Of course you have to temper that with their feedback and if they don't like it you should not do it again.

Touching strangers in a non-emergency - always rude.  Treating disabled people the way you would treat a child - extremely rude.

Firecat

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2013, 12:20:59 AM »
Definitely rude, with (in my opinion, anyway) a side of condescending. I didn't even like being patted on the head when I was a child, and the ONLY person who can get away with it now, even in a jokey way, is my DH.

Allyson

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2013, 12:23:43 AM »
People do this to me sometimes, and it drives me up the wall. I think it's because I'm short and 'cute'. I have had to tell people not to do this on more than one occasion.

GreenEyedHawk

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2013, 12:44:32 AM »
I would never pat someone on the head.  I agree it is rude and condescending.  I might give a pat on the shoulder but otherwise I try to not touch people at all, as some people really dislike being touched, even harmlessly.  I avoid it where I can unless it's a hug (in which case it would be someone I know well enough to know they are okay with it) or perhaps a handshake, which is (I believe) a commonly accepted social and professional gesture.
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veronaz

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2013, 12:58:57 AM »
Quote
Touching strangers in a non-emergency - always rude.  Treating disabled people the way you would treat a child - extremely rude.

This.  Rude and condescending.

*inviteseller

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2013, 01:19:15 AM »
rude and condescending to anyone.  I am vertically challenged and have had people do this to me.  I want to slap their hands.

sparksals

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2013, 01:46:15 AM »
It is highly offensive in Thailand to pat someone's head. 


Here in N. America, I would only pat the head of someone I know well. 

Iris

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2013, 02:30:51 AM »
I read an interesting article* by a disability advocate about how often complete strangers seem to think it's okay to pat her on the head simply because she has a disability (she uses a wheel chair). The author felt the gesture was condescending. She wrote about how she usually feels too humiliated in the moment to say something to the person doing the head patting.

To me, patting a stranger or even someone you've only just met on the head would be rude.
Some of the comments on the article agreed it was inappropriate. A few thought it was part of the culture (apparently we're a touchy-feely bunch in Australia - news to me).

Anyway, was curious about whether Ehellions believe patting someone on the head is okay and, if so, under what circumstances.

*haven't included the article link because I'm trying to avoid the politics (article was prompted by a politician's actions).

To me too, but then I've never lived in another culture so I can't say. I wouldn't think twice about gently tapping a stranger's shoulder to get their attention if it was appropriate (e.g. they'd dropped something) and they hadn't heard me call them verbally, so to me it's not horribly rude to touch any stranger, ever. I will pat a student on the shoulder for a job well done and that seems totally unacceptable in some cultures as well, so maybe I am 'touchy-feely' by world standards.

However, patting someone on the head is horribly condescending. Horribly. I don't even pat small children on the head unless they are closely related to me and I am affectionately ruffling or stroking their hair. Patting on the head is what you do to *dogs* for heaven's sake.
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Pen^2

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2013, 02:56:40 AM »
rude and condescending to anyone.  I am vertically challenged and have had people do this to me.  I want to slap their hands.

I get this too. It makes me immediately incited, and I make a note to never spend time around the offending party at all costs.

I'll pat an animal or a small child, but not an adult. From what I've seen, I think this is pretty normal. So if I were to pat an adult it would be condescending; the fact that people with disabilities seem to be subjected to this more than others doesn't speak well at all for how a lot of people view them. The woman in the article is rightly offended.

Anyone have any ideas on what can be said to people who do this? I can only think of snarky stuff. I'll always recoil very obviously and give them a look of disgust before leaving or keeping a very noticeable distance if I can't leave immediately.

scotcat60

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2013, 03:59:41 AM »
I think the only time it would not be rude to pat someone on the head, is if it were a very small child in your care or with whom you have an affectionate relationship, or a grown person you are very closely related with (in a jokey way) - spouse, parent, sibling.  Of course you have to temper that with their feedback and if they don't like it you should not do it again.

Touching strangers in a non-emergency - always rude.  Treating disabled people the way you would treat a child - extremely rude.

I'd go for this too. I was once patted on the head by someone shortly after I had started work, some 40 years ago. The man was a Professor and a living legend in his field, and he had said you don't know who I am, (not at all arrogantly we were at an office party and someone said "Do you know Scotcat" and he said "Yes, but she doesn't know who I am," When I said "You are Professor A" he smiled and gave me an avuncular type pat on the head, pleased I knew him. However, because he was such a sweetie, I took it. Anyone else... well there were those who I cringed if they even walked into the room.

Redsoil

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2013, 06:30:41 AM »
Wouldn't worry me if it was a friend. 

For anyone else?  It would be ill-advised, one assumes, to go "woof!" and bite them, no?
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Psychopoesie

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2013, 06:53:35 AM »
^tempting, yes. Advisable, no.

No doubt would be classed as retaliatory rudeness.

Simply imagining it made me laugh tho.  ;D

With a friend or family, it would be easy enough to say hey cut it out (because it would make me uncomfortable). A playful woof might be a goer there.

Not sure what I'd say if it was someone I didn't know. In the moment, I'd probably be too surprised to do more than gape like a fish.  I might block or push their hand away if I saw it coming, purely from reflex. I'd also move away quickly if at all possible. Can be hard on public transport.

MrTango

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2013, 10:51:19 AM »
Absolutely rude, not to mention it could be construed as assault/battery!

If someone tried to pat me on the head because of some perceived disability, they'd have their hand slapped away before it got close enough to touch me.

Thipu1

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Re: Is patting someone on the head rude?
« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2013, 11:13:58 AM »
Patting an adult on the head is almost always wrong unless it's done in a joking way which both parties understand as a joke.  Patting an adult on the hand or arm may be seen as a comforting gesture but, even there, you need to know the audience.