The figure on the right is not speaking, but their finger raised in front of their mouth is communicating – “Please be quiet!”
Gestures, like other forms of non-verbal communication, can stand on their own communicating a message.
They can also be combined with other forms of non-verbal communication, or be used in conjunction with the verbal part of speech delivery.
Gestures are not confined to the hands and movements we make with them. Gestures are defined as”motion of the limbs or body make to express or help express thought or to emphasize speech.”
Think about signing for babies and the hearing impaired, coaching signals in sports, and the communications runway personnel give pilots on the tarmac at airports. These are all examples of voluntary gestures with very specific communication objectives.
Gestures allow us to express a variety of thoughts and feelings.
- Throwing hands in the air – “I give up!”
- Moving a hand forcefully up and down – Making a point
- Snapping fingers – “I just remembered!”
- Head in hands – Worry
- Tapping on chest or head – “In my heart,” and “On my mind.”
- Shrugging the shoulder – “I don’t know, ” or “Who cares?”
- Cocking the head in a specific direction – “It’s over there,” or “Let’s go.”
- Pounding a fist into the palm of your hand – “I’m mad!”
- Holding you stomach – “I’m not feeling well.”
- Rubbing the stomach – “Tastes good!”
Gestures are not universal! Different cultures interpret gestures in different manners. A seemingly innocuous gesture in this country could well be an obscene, even insulting gesture in another culture.
With the United States growing more and more culturally diverse, it’s important to be aware of this. Being insensitive to these different interpretations of gestures could negate an otherwise good presentation.
About the Author
Fred E. Miller is a speaker, an international coach, and the author of the books, “NO SWEAT Public Speaking!” and“NO SWEAT Elevator Speech!”
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They do this because they know: Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities.
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