The way you use your hands when speaking to people can have a marked effect on the impact you have. Charismatic and influential speakers know the secrets to clear and effective communication is mainly in the body language they convey.
In fact, the research shows that words alone convey less than 30% of a message, the rest is done with the body, the tone, the creative expression. Being aware of how the hands are moved by eliminating excessive, wild gestures and idiosyncrasies which may distract from your message is also a key to effectively communicating, and to cultivating trust and certainty.
In her book ‘Peoplemaking’ by Virginia Satir (1988), Satir came up with five hand gestures representative of five archetypes, which can be used to convey deeper, archetypal meaning to an audience. These can be used to assist trainers, speakers and messengers to produce a predictable response, especially when energy management is needed.
1. The Placator: this is a fabulous one to use when you need to soften things, especially if you’ve just delivered a controversial or slightly confrontational subject (or someone in your audience has) and you want to evoke and return to an agreeable space. The palms of the hands are turned up to the ceiling and the expression is a deferential and vulnerable one, almost apologetic and non-defensive.
2. The Leveller: this is great for levelling out the energy in the room. If things are getting a little excitable (which is desirable but needs to be contained at times), the gesture is palms facing down and moving from the centre of the body outwards in a sweep. One arm can also be used to one side of the room if the energy is concentrated there.
3. The Distractor (Joker): this is fantastic for lightening mood if people are starting to look sombre or too serious (or sleepy!). The trainer moves out of trainer’s stance (see part one of Inspired Speakers series for a description) and into an asymmetrical posture, with the hands moving more spontaneously and asymmetrically to suggest spontaneity and fun.
4. The Blamer (Bully): this is a good one for the soft, feminine speaker who really wants to get a point across without raising her voice. This is indicated by a sharp karate chop of the hand which slices through the air and cuts to the heart of the point you’re trying to make. It’s a great one to use if you feel people are losing interest or they’re starting to look sleepy.
5. The Computer: this is the most cooling, least emotional state to evoke. It is indicated by the index finger on the cheek, or a similar gesture indicating a dissociated, unfeeling state, like a computer. It’s great to use when speaking to someone who is cool and dissociated (unemotional) to build rapport, and to create a more detached atmosphere when dry, facts are presented.
It’s fascinating to watch how people use their hands. Go and play with it and see if it works for you.
Do you have a wedding speech, workshop, public talk, conference meeting or interview you need to prepare for? Got the heebeejeebees? Book in for your free discovery session by emailing me at email@example.com and we’ll talk through your upcoming event. I’d be honoured to coach you in three sessions to be the fearless messenger and guide that you are destined to be.