Touch is the first of the six senses we acquire. It is our first language. However, we do belong to a touch-phobic society, so perhaps we need to regain some fluency in our first language.
Our ability to communicate non-verbally is just as important to us as human beings as it is to speak; researchers have long documented the complex emotions and desires that our posture, motions, and expressions reveal. 'We do have, undeniably, an innate ability to decode emotions purely by touch alone' and if touch is indeed our primal language, then we must assume that we instinctively know how to use it and so should not be afraid to do so.
I personally believe that touch can communicate multiple positive emotions: joy, love, gratitude, and sympathy. It is a much more nuanced, sophisticated, and precise way to communicate emotions and sentiments. It can break down barriers. It can impart grace and empathy and symbolically, it can represent a gesture of goodwill and peace.
Consequently, touch is often used ritually to exemplify a deep and meaningful purpose. For example, the church uses it to offer a blessing or to hand over apostolic responsibility. It is also used as an outward sign for healing and reassurance. Some cultures use it to pass on a birth right. Marriage ceremonies use the symbolism of touch as an outward display of union between two people. Funeral ceremonies use it as an outward sign of commendation and farewell when touching the coffin.
If there's a most appropriate time to communicate via touch, it's probably when someone needs consoling. Research shows that touch is the best way to comfort. 'If we were to ask someone how they'd comfort someone in a given situation, they tend to list pats, hugs, and various kinds of touch behaviours more than anything else.'
Maybe that's because there are times — during intense grief or fear, but also in ecstatic moments of human joy or love—when only the language of touch can even hope to fully express what we feel.