Do you talk with your hands? Hand gestures are an important part of communication and can greatly help you to drive your point home.
The value of hand gestures
Our body language, especially our gestures, can help to make our message more comprehensible and valuable, particularly when giving a presentation or speaking in public.
According to a Forbes article, research shows that speakers who utilize a variety of gestures are usually viewed in a “more favorable light” by the audience. International keynote speaker and executive coach Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., writes “Studies have found that people who communicate through active gesturing tend to be evaluated as warm, agreeable and energetic, while those who remain still (or whose gestures seem mechanical or “wooden”) are seen as logical, cold, and analytical.”
In fact, the most successful business leaders and the best speakers know how to use hand gestures to be more influential and leave a lasting impact on their listeners. A recent study, which analyzed speakers of TED Talks, discovered that the most influential and effective speakers used 465 hand gestures on average. National best selling author Vanessa Van Edwards, who conducted the research, writes “In our human behavior research lab, we analyzed thousands of hours of TED talks and found one striking pattern: The most viral TED Talkers spoke with their words AND their hands.”
She adds “The least popular TED Talkers used an average of 272 hand gestures during the 18 minute talk. The most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures – that’s almost double!”
Hand gestures and better communication
Entrepreneur Derek Halpren explains “Hand gestures can help you communicate better, when you talk to people, when you give a presentation at work, when you’re giving a speech.” According to a 2007 study, using gestures in social interactions can influence the thinking of the listeners. It was also found that gestures help to increase the effectiveness of the message by almost 60%.
Another 2005 study found using gestures while we speak can actually enhance our access to language. Researcher Dr. Elena Nicoladis believes that memory access & gesturing is strongly connected with language. She says “What we think is going on here is that the very fact of moving your hands around helps you recall parts of the story–the gestures help you access memory and language so that you can tell more of the story.” She adds “If you’re in a situation where it’s important to get the language out and you’re having difficulty, it may help to start making gestures.”
A 2016 study by Seokmin Kang and Barbara Tversky found that gestures promote understanding. The analysis found that hand gestures are able to “map many meanings more directly than language.” It revealed that using gestures in accordance with meaning can improve learning and understanding to a great extent.
The study states “Before there were words, there were gestures, both ontogenetically and phylogenetically. Babies typically gesture before they speak.” The paper adds “Gestures can be more precise and show more nuances than words. Gestures are powerful tools for thinking and communicating because they both represent and resemble.”
Your hands talk more than you think
An article publIshed in the Huffington Post reports that gestures help us to convey our thoughts and emotions better, according to psychologists. Author and body language expert Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman, says “Hand gestures are really a powerful aspect of communication, from both the speaker’s and the listener’s end.”
The fact is our hand gestures empower us to express ourselves more intelligibly. Dr. Kinsey Goman adds “Gesture is really linked to speech, and gesturing while you talk can really power up your thinking. Gesturing can help people form clearer thoughts, speak in tighter sentences and use more declarative language.”
Broca’s area, a region in our brain, is responsible for regulating gestures. This area in the brain is connected to production of speech and is also responsible for waving our hands. One study conducted in 2013 revealed that “gesture is a robust part of human communication and can be harnessed in a variety of ways. Our hands are with us at all times and we routinely use them for communication.”
How to use hand gestures to improve communication
Using hand gestures can certainly improve the effectiveness of your communication. But there are certain things you need to keep in mind –
- Do not go overboard while using your hands to communicate. Your hands gestures should be confined from the top of your chest to the bottom of your waist, suggests best selling author Vanessa Van Edwards. Going out of this zone can be distracting for the listener and have adverse effects.
- Make sure your gestures are expressive, instead of being stiff or out of control. Try to avoid the “Jazz Hands.”
- Use your gestures meaningfully to drive your point home and to make you message clear.
- Keep it natural. Do not try to overcompensate your words with your gestures. Your hand gestures should be smooth and must appear natural. It should complement your speech, not complicate it.
17 most effective hand gestures
Here are some of the most important and helpful hand gestures you should use while speaking. These gestures are widely used by successful entrepreneurs, leaders and the best speakers across the world. Take a look:
1. Listing numbers
When we use a hand gesture while counting or listing something, it helps to make the point clearer. Listing is perhaps the most common and easiest gesture. By doing the relevant gesture every time you talk about a number, you can structure the message. Moreover it becomes easier for the listener to remember the numbers easily. It acts as a “nonverbal anchor” according to Vanessa Van Edwards of the Science Of People.
2. Money sign
This another basic gesture that is used across the globe to denote money or currency. When you rub the tip of your index finger and middle finger against your thumb repeatedly, it signifies that you’re talking about money. Entrepreneur, speaker and author John Rampton says that this gesture “can be used when talking about sales and is a symbol that everyone in a sales meeting is sure to understand.”