It's Amazing What You Can "Say" With Your Hands

Few other groups of gestures can compare to the power of hand gestures. According to scientists there are more nerve connections to the brain on the hands than any other body part. The hands are so essential to human survival that the body made sure that there would always be adequate communication between the brain and the hands.

How much can you learn from observing just a person's hands? Plenty – if you ask me. For example, did you know that you can see easily see a person's bias by watching how he moves his hands up and down during the course of a discussion? That's right – just watch how a guy or girl discusses ideas. The bias is revealed in the gesticulation.

It is estimated that 90% of the world population is right handed. So if a person is right handed, his stronger side is the right side. A right handed person who has a personal preference for something will describe that something and emphasize his points by moving his right hand during the discussion.

When a right handed person wants to shed light on opposing views or not-so-desirable options, he will use the opposite hand, which is essentially is weaker hand. Inversely, a left handed person will use his left hand to describe something he likes and he will shift to his right hand if he has to talk about something that he doesn't like.

It‟s pretty simple – but this little secret is brutally effective in determining if the other person is being sincere when he says that he fully agrees with what you are saying.

For example, if the other person says that he likes your project ideas but he enumerates the benefits of your ideas with his left hand (if he is a right-handed person) you can be sure that there is really some degree of resistance and the other person is simply pretending to agree with what you are saying.


Remember when we were little kids and we would rub our palms in excitement when we hear that we are about to get something that we really like? Well, this gesture usually does not disappear in adulthood.

The frequency of usage is reduced of course, but adults are just as prone to excitement as kids (or even more so, in some cases). So there you have it – if you see someone rubbing their palms together, then that person is expecting something really nice to happen.

Some of you might be wondering: how can this tidbit be useful anyway? Let me give you some examples.

Let' s say you walked into a swanky new restaurant. The waiter who is assigned to your table is very attentive and he seems very pleased to serve your table. Then at one point he rubs his palms together as he asks you if you want anything else. There it is!

There is positive expectation – and in the context that I gave you, the waiter is probably expecting a nice tip from you.

Now let's say you are a speaker at a big conference in the city. The host of the conference stands up and starts rubbing his hands as he introduces you to the crowd. The hand- rubbing is there for only a few seconds, but you were inquisitive and observant enough to catch it. What does it mean?

Obviously, the host of the conference is excited to have you on board as a speaker. Second, the host is probably communicating to you that everyone is expecting a dynamite performance from you and that you shouldn't disappoint them with something plain and boring.

The speed at which a person is rubbing his hands is also an indicator of intent. Here's a good example. Let‟s say you were looking for a brand new car. The salesman (who appears to be very knowledgeable) guides you through the whole showroom and presents the most popular cars.

If you ask the car salesman about the best car for your budget, watch out if he rubs his hands. If he rubs his hands quickly, then you are in the clear. A quick hand-rub means the other person has positive intentions and that the benefit of the action will be for you.

However, if the other person is slowly rubbing his hands as he presents something to you, you can be sure that he will be receiving a benefit as well.

Clenching the Hands Together

Like the palm-rub, clenching both hands during a conversation also has its own signification. Generally, a person who is clenching his hands even if the rest of his gestures or expression is extremely confident is usually experiencing some form of anxiety or fear.

This gesture can also be viewed as a barrier gesture – the person is trying to hold in some of his thoughts and emotions as he is talking with another person or a whole group of people. This gesture can also be analyzed as a way to disagree with another person's ideas.

The clenched hand gesture does not produce any positive connotations whatsoever. When a person does this, it's always negative. So if you are talking to an important person, don’t clench your hands because it's very defensive and quite frankly it doesn't really add anything good to your own effort to project a credible and confident person.

What other things does the clenched hand reveal about people? Here are some quick tidbits:

1. The clenched hand gesture shows frustration, particularly when a person is forced to deal with a very difficult negotiation. Stalemates can produce white knuckles after having been clenched for far too long. Restraint does come with a price – because during negotiations, the last thing that you want to show is you are about to fly off the handle.

2. This gesture also reveals that the person himself is thinking that he is not credible enough or convincing enough during the conversation. Take note that by "conversation" I refer to any face to face social interaction that requires literal proximity (not video conferences, etc.) Face-to-face conversations can have a bigger impact on a person and his deeply-rooted anxieties can emerge when he feels that he is not on the winning side anymore.

3. The clenched hand gesture can be done in three ways. The person can hold his hand near his face (method # 1) or he can place his clenched hands flat on the table (method # 2).
And then there‟s the last option, which is to place the clenched hands near the zipper area (method # 3). Regardless of the positioning of the clenched hands, the signification of the gesture remains the same.

Projecting Power

The basic steeple gesture

If the clenched hands gesture shows the other person that you are anxious about something, the steeple gesture shows the direct opposite.

It shows that you are very confident about what you are saying and what you are doing and because of this, you are a force to be reckoned with. It has been observed that the steeple gesture is used most frequently by thinkers (i.e. master chess players) and natural power players (i.e. administrators, managers, business folk, etc.).

This gesture is usually performed when a person has to give directions or orders to someone else. The steeple signifies not only self-confidence but superiority over others.

Should you use the steeple gesture, at all? You can use it if you are in the presence of people who are formally below you in terms of formal hierarchy.

For example, if you are an office administrator and you are holding a meeting, you can use this gesture sparingly to remind others that you are indeed a boss and your ideas and recommendations should be considered.

On the other hand, if you want to convince someone don’t use this gesture because you will come across as arrogant in some instances.

If you have to persuade someone, the best way to go about it is to create an equalizing atmosphere so that the other person will respect you and at the same time, will consider you as an equal.

The steeple is a key gesture during negotiations or presentations. People usually perform the steeple toward the end of a negotiation. However, it is just a main hook for the cluster of gestures that would follow.

People never stick to a single gesture because they need to express themselves completely, too. So here‟s the technique: when the other person starts using the steeple gesture, check the other gestures in the cluster.
If the other gestures are positive then the only thing left to do is to formally ask the other person for permission to carry out the idea, get the product, etc. Positive body language after the steeple gesture means the other person was indeed persuaded.

Negative body language after a steeple gesture on the other hand means the other person is not interested in what you have said and he doesn't want to say yes at all.

So if you are offering an idea to your boss and he begins to "steeple" and he begins to cross his arms, too, then you can be sure that he's not impressed with what you have said so far. Respond to the body language adequately and you will most likely get the results that you want.

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