Body language of hands
By Paul Anderson
If you want to know what someone is thinking or intending to do, watch their hands. The way people hold their hands, place their hands, use their hands or show their hands can tell you a lot about them. Some of their gestures may not be intentional and you can use this as a clue to their emotions. In this article you will be introduced to a number of hand expressions and their meanings.
Body language of hands works both ways. It allows you to learn about other people, but it also allows you to control your own body language in a way that improves your communication skills. You can then control how you are seen by others.
Let’s go through a number of common hand gestures and non-verbal signals and see what they suggest.
Hands in Pockets
When hands are placed in pockets they are hidden from view. When hands are hidden, we can become suspicious of people. Their body language tells us that we cannot trust them. The fear may come from our heritage when we fear the use of a weapon or an attack by another person.
While presenting, hands in pockets can be extremely distracting. Some presenters even go as far as fiddling with something in their pockets while presenting which is certainly a sure way to distract everyone from what they are saying.
Hands Held Behind
Similarly when hands are held behind, they are hidden from view and our suspicion rises again. The way hands are held behind a person can also tell us what they think. Here is how you can interpret the body language. When hands are holding each other, it is usually taken as a sign of power or intention to show domination. However, if one hand is holding an upper arm while both hands are held behind the person, it may indicate lack of confidence or being unsure of a position.
If a person shows their palms, they will be seen as open and honest. Effectively they havesnothing to hide. In contrast, when palms are hidden or the back of hand is shown the person may not be as truthful or open. You will need to use this non-verbal signal along with others signals as part of your interpretation of a person’s body language.
When explaining something, hands are used to emphasise certain points. Excessive use of hand gestures reduces their value and will no longer be registered by an audience. In contrast, not using stressing gestures lead to a boring, unenthusiastic and somewhat forced presentation. Research on body language shows that the audience will also have more problems understanding a presenter when hand gestures are not used.
Generally speaking finger pointing is taken as an aggressive gesture. The non-verbal signal is most aggressive when used towards the audience. Sometimes it is used towards the sky, usually when blaming someone else. If used downwards, it suggest stressing key points or relating to something written and recorded that the presenter wants to stress on, someone aggressively.
We use hands extensively to communicate. Sometimes we have emotional leakage into our hand gestures. So by observing people’s hands along with their general body language, you can learn a lot about their feelings and true intentions.
Paul Anderson is a training consultant at Skills Converged. The company provides training resources on soft skills, management skills and interpersonal skills which are used by the training community to deliver interactive face-to-face training courses.
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