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Saturday, July 04, 2009

JETNETTING: The First Impression Factor XIV - Gestures, Part II

JetNetting with Heshie Segal

Ah, hand movements. So much can be said about them. They can emphasis what you are communicating or they can give you away. Do you use them when you speak and, are you aware of using them? Do you use them a little? A lot? Do you create large movements or do you keep them small? Does it depend on the situation? Are your hand movements forced? Natural? Do you need them to talk for you . . .to supply the meaning you cannot seem to communicate effectively with words alone? Just watch people who visit a foreign country and do not understand the prevailing language. They use their hands when asking for directions, for pointing, for clarification, for ordering food and of course the list keeps on going. The use of hand gestures can and is truly transformed into a language without words; reflect on the communication skills of people who are deaf and/or mute and how amazingly ‘articulate’ they can be.

Julie and Bill are a dynamic duo. They work with people who want to make the most of their communication skills. Their niche is teaching how to create a positive first impression.

Julie is a bubbly, outgoing woman who uses her hands to create visual pictures in support of her message. Her receptive attitude is easily identifiable when she opens her hands to invite people into her space. When she stands before a large audience, she exaggerates the invitation by bringing her hands further away from the center of her body.

Bill is also dynamic . . . with an understated persona. He allows his hands to "talk", just not excessively. He does not call undue attention to them. Like Judy, he consistently uses open hands and palms that translate into a sense of authority and being in control of any situation.

Julie and Bill have been coaching a small group of talented college students who will be interviewed for sales and marketing positions. They know that creating a positive first impression is imperative. This session has the dynamic duo helping their protégés master communication with hand gestures.

Joey, one of the students, asks them, “What do I do with my hands when I am speaking to a tentative employer and especially if I have to stand in front of a group? I feel awkward just letting them hang.” Karen pipes in, “My hands go everywhere. I could never let them just hang!”

Julie laughs and says, “Karen, I know how you feel. I have to control my own hands at times. You are not alone. Women use far more hand gestures, and gestures in general for that matter, than men. That’s tough because, in certain situations we are less believable when we have our hands and arms all over the place.

Bill is ready to give some instruction. “Alright everyone, let’s get some basic guidelines that will make everyone more comfortable. Here goes:

  1. Keeping your hands at your sides, unless they are gesturing as part of your message, makes you look trustworthy, confident and grounded. Yet if you purposely keep your hands still and they appear rigid, with no gesturing whatsoever, you run the risk of appearing stilted and your speech becoming flat and monotonous. Balance is essential.
  2. When you put your hands behind you, especially if your head is slightly bowed, you may be perceived as lacking in vitality or in contemplation; and it might appear as if you are hiding something. When you keep your hands in full view, you show that you are open and forthcoming.
  3. Placing your hands on you hips can make you appear to be snobbish, patronizing, impatient or superior.
  4. When you are speaking to just one person, keep your gestures on the smaller side. When there is a group, enlarge the movements.

“Alright, lab time.” Julie wants the students to communicate and demonstrate emotions by using hand gestures only. “We will take the next 90 minutes, divide into teams, come up with your own scenarios and use the gestures listed below. Your role playing will give you confidence for the all important first impression . . . and beyond.

In the next session, we will cover the handshake. There is much more to it than you think.

Hands Clenched: Stressed out, Suspicion, Anxiety, Surprise

Covering your Mouth is usually negative: Doubt, Lack of confidence, Distortion of the truth

Hands on Hips - (with feet spread at shoulder width) Are you ready to roll?: Indicative of someone who wants to get somewhere quickly - whether physically or emotionally, Aggressiveness

Hand placed on chest: Allegiance, Honesty, Sincerity

Hand Wringing: Nervousness, Insecurity

Rubbing hands together: Satisfaction when it is with a quick motion, Deviousness, deception when done in slow motion

(Open) Hands, Palms: Openness, Sincerity

Palm rubbing: Expectancy, a way to keep warm

This just touches the surface of what hand gestures can mean. Not every movement has to have meaning, but it can. It is what you make of it. Now, your assignment: become more observant of what you do and what you see others do. Your impact and success depend on it!

For more information, please visit
Heshie's TNNW Bio.

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