Changing your hand habits

It sounds hideously difficult to change your gestural patterns . For one thing, you're probably not even aware of them, and once you are aware you become too inhibited and self-conscious to look natural . Hands are a bit of a bugger; they're happy to do their own thing when you're not looking but once you start to pay them attention and give them instructions they go into a sulk Often hands appear to grow in size, and the more you instruct them not to do something the more they tend to do it . Try telling yourself not to fiddle with your notes as you talk, for instance The brain has its own little filter system . It deletes the word "don't" and only hears the command, so "don't put your hands in your pockets" becomes "shove your hands in your pockets at the first opportunity and then fiddle with your small change while you're in there "

Change means sending positive commands, not don'ts

Remember, it takes twenty-one to thirty days to change a habit, which is small fry compared to the benefits you'll be reaping . So here are your easy steps to becoming in control of your hand gestures: I Be aware of what gestures you're using at present and how you'd like them to change I Know your goals . What do you want to do with your hands while you speak? Open, emphatic gestures? Then send that image down to your subconscious

I Get in front of that mirror again and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Here's a guide to help you through your rehearsals: I Palms facing up make you look open, honest, and compliant; however, overdoing the palm displays could make you look like a small-time crook or conman. Remember, overcongruent signals are not a nice look The poker player's rule applies to overacted hand movements—that is, if your opponent looks as though he has a bad hand, expect it to be a good one, and vice versa I Palms held to the front is a signal to stop or defensiveness under attack. If the palm is flat and fingers are stretched, it will look like an order . If the palm is more relaxed, it will imply you're trying to get someone to lay off

I Hands balled into fists . If they're down at your sides it will look like suppressed aggression If they're held at waist height, they'll suggest frustration at yourself

I Hands clasped in front of torso. Held crotch-height, they'll look super defensive as though expectant of a low-blow attack . (By the way, watch out for defensive gestures; when we look as though we're expecting to be attacked we often invite the very thing we dread ) If the hands are loosely clasped waist height you'll look ready for action and rather confident If they're clasped any higher you'll look submissive, with the level of submission rising along with the hands You'll probably stop at the chin, and the hands clasped under the chin pose is the most submissive of the lot, practically inviting other people to wipe their feet all over you Wringing hands suggest subservience and anxiety A handclasp gesture in which the palms are pointed at the floor will look juvenile and very much like a pathetic attempt to look cute I "Hamster Hands" is a term I coined for hands clasped nervously high up the body, around chest or even neck height. Doing this will make you look overly anxious to please

I Hands on hips . This body-bulking gesture can look like Power Posturing. It mimics the first stages of aggressive arousal in animals when they puff themselves up to intimidate their opponents

I Hands held with tips of fingers joined and palms slightly apart.

This is called "steepling" and it's easy to see why It normally signals a desire for heightened status, especially if all the fingertips or the tips of the two index fingers point upward toward your own chin There's a sense of control and precision about this hand gesture that suggests a rather sanctimonious attitude If the fingertips point forward there's less of the status posturing, but by pointing all fingers at the other person you'll appear to want them to keep their distance, not because you feel vulnerable but because you feel superior I A lowered steeple is when the steepled hands are held around crotch height or point forward This implies critical listening

I By holding both arms at your sides you'll look odd. This pose will only usually occur in military types or people who have been on presentation skill-training courses If your arms are held out from your sides like a muscle-bound ape you'll appear to be emphasizing your alpha credentials I If your hands are clasped behind your back you'll look as though you're keeping them out of trouble Women who do this gesture can look charmingly whimsical but men will often seem like a frotteur in remission This last point doesn't apply to concierge staff or shop workers who will use the pose to signal they're ready to serve or help I Place one hand in a trouser pocket and you can look debonair and cool, but only if the thumb is still on display. Hooking a thumb or both thumbs into your pockets can look affected in a suspicious kind of way Shoving the whole hand in will signal a desire to hide . Ditto both hands, with bells on . Jangling change in your pocket will just look perverted . Avoid jacket pockets at all costs as they're too high to look good, especially when the pockets belong to a double-breasted jacket that is buttoned up This will look anally retentive I Your hands shouldn't be employed in any business apart from gesturing as you speak I Be careful how you employ your index fingers; remember that they constitute a weapon and you could look aggressive or attacking. For example, a finger-baton is when you raise your finger upright and then wave it forward and back, looking reproachful I Rubbing your hands together could imply relish and a desire to get on with the proceedings Prince William used this gesture en route to his father's wedding Beware using it when you're in charge, though; it can remind people of a dad at a kids' party I When you use your hands, avoid keeping your arms pressed in against your sides This raises the shoulders and presents like an anxious-looking self-hug Drop your shoulders as you've learned to do in your posture exercise and allow your elbows to move out slightly from your waist . Get a little air in under your armpits, it will make you look more confident and in control I Never allow your fingers to go rigid, stiff, and spiky. This is caused by muscle tension and will make your nervousness obvious I If you have a habit of restraightening your tie, buy yourself a tiepin and grow out of the gesture. If you want to be reminded of how this comes across, watch how David Brent did it in the British The Office and how that nervous habit made him look A tie is a phallic garment worn like a huge arrow pointing toward your willy . Keep touching it and drawing attention to it and... well, you work out what it means . I Use your illustrative gestures to tell a story . They're useful for fleshing out your words or adding visual pictures to aid understanding I Keep your gestures working at about the same pace as your speech, which will make them look coverbal and therefore part of the same thought processes Genuine gestures occur just before words as it's easier for the brain to create movement than to formulate language, so to look sincere you should allow your hands to do the talking rather than allowing your words to lead the way

I Think Fred Astaire. The best movement is in sync so that your entire body looks well choreographed Avoid anything that looks jerky or uncontrolled . This doesn't mean every movement should look calm, though You can add impact via added emphasis But avoid becoming overly choreographed Super smooth movements can make you look false Think of those politicians who appear to have had every single blink and breath under scrutiny and overly groomed. Before George W. Bush, American politicians were too choreographed No one could accuse Bush of being overly prepared in his Q&A sessions, though!

I Open gestures have more impact than closed, but if your arms are spread for too long you'll look like Al Jolson doing jazz hands Alternate between loosely clasped hands and open gestures

I Keep gestures in the area from waist height to shoulder height.

Any lower and you'll look depressed or skeezy and higher will imply hysteria or borderline madness

I Relax your fingers by shaking your hands gently before you meet and speak. Camilla Parker Bowles could have been given this advice to overcome nerves before her marriage to Prince Charles, but I spotted her doing it as she approached a group at a reception Please keep your warm-ups in private . The only invisible workouts would be gently exhaling to relax your body or the posture corrector, straightening your spine, and dropping your shoulders back and down

I Never use props to keep your hands out of trouble. Although it's tempting to hold a bag, a pen, or even some papers, you'll find these become an exaggerated version of any self-comfort fiddles Pens provide such a good insight into your thoughts and emotions that they should come with a government health warning Grievous bodily harm with a ballpoint pen is commonplace, and as you twist it, unscrew it, chew it, or waggle it you'll be giving away more than you'd choose to I Illustrative gestures are grand but make sure you never teeter over the brink and into the world of mime. Remember the Backstreet Boys? Remember how they had a move for every line in the song? I've seen speakers perform very much the same way, miming words as they speak as though talking to the hard of hearing

When you start to discover your leakage gestures it can cause you to suffer the kind of discomfort that can send you backpedaling into a state of unawareness But always remember that ignorance isn't bliss—some work spent studying your leakage signals, then focusing on the dos not the don'ts as a way to edit them won't only rid you of some negatives, but it will also enhance and add to your body language repertoire as well

Continue reading here: You and your facial expressions

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