Hand gestures with purpose

January 10, 2016

What are your hand gestures communicating to others? Whether you’re conveying a character as an actor or gesturing in your personal life, your hands are busy communicating something to others–but what? How exactly to interpret any type of body language has long been a source of intrigue as well as controversy. Interpretations in one culture or country can vary from others, and it’s disputed which body motions are considered universal. That being said, various body-language experts over the years have shed light on commonly accepted connotations of certain hand gestures within our culture. In the clip above, Allan Pease, globally known as “Mr. Body Language,” humorously reveals the power we hold in the palm of our hands as we seek to communicate with others, to motivate them, and to win them over.

Pease demonstrates how much information can be exchanged in a simple handshake; it’s significant because this introductory interaction has the potential to influence your feelings about the other person–namely, how dominant, equal, or subordinate you feel to them–right off the bat. Pease also demonstrates how keeping your palms turned upward while giving instruction results in a largely receptive response from others, whereas giving the same instruction with palms turned downward–or worse yet while pointing–triggers a more resistant response from others.

After watching this video, you’ll likely find yourself paying closer attention to your own hand motions as well as those of your friends, family members, and colleagues. Use caution in your interpretations though. As Pease asserts, “One gesture could mean perhaps a dozen different things.” To avoid misunderstandings, he suggests people look for clusters of gestures instead of simply relying on one. When a speaker touches his or her nose, for instance, this might suggest a lie is being told, but it could also indicate that person simply has an itchy nose or a cold. However, if a speaker rubs his nose, then rubs his eye, and then looks downward, this cluster of motions is more indicative of a lie.

Research suggests that body language accounts for a whopping 55 percent for the overall information transmitted during interpersonal interactions. Tone of voice is attributed to 38 percent of the message. And astoundingly, the literal words spoken account only for 7 percent of the message conveyed as we converse. So, the unspoken forms of communication can clearly amount to a treasure trove for actors. This knowledge can also benefit a person’s personal and professional interactions overall.

Here is another clip of Allan Pease talking about how to be a people magnet.