By one of our favorite communications consultants, Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., writing for CommPro…
The body language question I’m asked the most when people are preparing to make a presentation is: “What should I do with my hands?”
My answer? “Use them.”
Research shows that audiences tend to view people who use a greater variety of gestures in a more favorable light. Studies have found that people who communicate through active gesturing tend to be evaluated as warm, agreeable, and energetic, while those who remain still (or whose gestures seem mechanical or “wooden”) are seen as logical, cold, and analytic.
That’s one of the reasons why gestures are so critical to a leader and why getting them right in a presentation connects so powerfully with an audience.
Unless you are about to make a presentation, chances are you don’t often think about your hand gestures — but in practice you naturally use them with great efficiency and sophistication to cover a surprisingly wide range of communication.
To increase your influence and impact skills, it’s helpful to be aware of how your movements are most likely being perceived. Here are some common hand gestures and the messages you may be sending:
Hidden hands – Hidden hands make you look less trustworthy. This is one of the nonverbal signals that is deeply ingrained in our subconscious. In our prehistory, when someone approached with hands out of view, it was a clear signal of potential danger. Although today the threat of hidden hands is more symbolic than real, our ingrained psychological discomfort remains.
Crossed arms — Although there are cultural differences to take into account, crossing arms is almost always perceived as a closed sign of resistance. (And, by the way, since the human brain pays more attention to negative messages than it does to positive ones, what people unconsciously look for and react to the most, are signs that you are in a bad mood or that something is wrong.)
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