Do Your Hands Sabotage You When You Speak For Business?

In my last blog, I opened with two compelling statistics about the impact of non-verbal communication and addressed three behaviors that influence face-to-face interactions:  smiling, the head nod, and placing the fingers in front of one’s mouth while speaking.

Here are four additional aspects of body language (specifically, the use of your hands) related to general tendencies in perception within United States:

  1. Helplessness and/or an urgency to be understood are communicated when you speak with your hands open at chest level and spread sideways with the palms up.
  2. Speaking with the hand(s) up and palm(s) facing outward can communicate messages influenced by gender:  When a man does this, it sends a placating message; when a woman does it, the message is flirtatious.
  3. Pointing with a finger (and especially with an object, such as a pen) sends a message of aggressiveness.
  4. A subtext of disagreement is sent when your arms are crossed over your chest.

Here are some tips regarding your body language during business communication, whether you are speaking informally or giving a formal presentation:

  • Keep your hands open and available for natural gestures; do not plan or rehearse gestures!
  • A waist-level position for the hands (with palms relaxed and fingers slightly curved) is often appropriate.
  • When gesturing, use both hands whenever possible.
  • Put pens and pointers down when you are not using them.

Savvy business speakers think about non-verbal communication the way that actors do:  they remain conscious of the fact that listeners who can see you are watching you very carefully and interpreting meaning from every aspect of your body language.

As you speak for business, be mindful of any physical behaviors you exhibit that may be sending unintended messages, and make appropriate changes (even if it initially takes you out of your comfort zone).  The results will have a dramatic impact on your projection of confidence, warmth, and authority — as well as your ability to persuade.

 

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