Monday, April 11, 2011

Talk To The Hand

I'm not sure where the phrase "Talk to the Hand" began, but very few conversations that I engage in end without some part of the conversation being conveyed by my hands.  You cannot talk to me without talking to my hands too.  I would be willing to say that the vast majority of you reading this blog use hand gestures in some way, shape, or form to get your point across as well. Our hands speak volumes.

When I was videoed teaching as part of my quest to obtain National certification, I realized just how much I spoke with my hands.  I knew that I made motions. However, I did not realize that there were patterns to the movements.  When I present material, I move my hands in a rolling motion outward.  Take your hand turned palm inward.  Now turn it in a cricle like you are rolling out something away from your body.  In every single video, this is what I did with my hands while lecturing. I suppose I was rolling out information.  Interestingly when I asked questions, I started with my hand further away from my body and rolled it back in to my body.  I wanted them to bring the information back to me. I also moved my hands about to simulate movement, jumping, making connections and the like throughout the lessons. I was acting out certain portions to get my point across without realizing it.  My hands help me teach daily.

Saturday afternoon while Taylor was mowing the lawn, I had a conversation with a friend of mine. We disagreed on a few items, and after a few minutes of discussion, he left.  Taylor turned off the mower to ask what the argument had been.  I asked why he thought there had been any discord.  He replied "I didn't need to hear you to know what you were saying.  You always argue with your hands." He went on to demonstrate and explain a few of my motions which made me laugh.  They were completely accurate.  I want to go on the record though.  I was not using my middle finger.  I'm not even sure why that finger is any more offensive than the index finger, ring finger, or pinkie.  It is though and I do not use it in anger. The two gestures that clued Taylor into the fact that my friend and I were disagreeing were simple.  First, I took my hand placed it about level with my head and chopped the air.  Moved down a little further, chopped the air. Repeat motion a few more times and you realize that I am creating an angry timeline in the air. Taylor said that while he didn't know what the issue in question was but apparently it had been going on a while because I felt the need to list every incident.  Ummm...  Good call.  While the timeline may be a hand gesture personal to me, the second motion is definitely not. Put both hands out to your sides, arms fully extended.  Palms facing out.  This is a question which may or may not be accompanied by a spoken question.  In anger, people have a tendency to move their upper body slightly into the space between the arms.  Recognize it?  Yep... We all do this one. Taylor is perceptive.  He really needs to think about choosing intelligence as his job in the Marines.

Of course, I am not the only person to use hand gestures. Think of all the universal movements out there of which we all know the meaning; the ones that help us throughout our life from the time we are small kids placing one finger over our lips to ask our friend not to give our location away in a game of hide and go seek. Stop - hand up, palm facing out.  Call me - hand closed with pinky and thumb extended held toward your ear.  I love you - arms crossed over your chest followed by extended index finger pointed at the loved person. You can build an entire relationship based on the movement of your hands.

A friend wants to introduce you to a single friend who is nearby. They say the guy's name and then, bending his arm at the elbow motions the prospective date over with his hand moving in a waving motion.  No need to shout "Hey Buddy, Come over here where I am"; the hand gesture works. The guy walks over.  The host introduces you by moving his open palmed hand to you and then to the single man.  You shake hands. There is lots of communication going on during this exchange that is unspoken.  Psychologists can prattle on and on about why it is important to make the exchange with open palms to show welcome and openness.  You don't need the jargon behind it to understand that this open palm is much more appealing that someone introducing you to some one using a closed fist or a pointing index finger or dare we say, the middle finger. The handshake is important too.  In my Leadership class, we do an entire lesson on how to properly shake hands (not to hard or soft, not to long or short).  How many times have you shook the limp fish hand of someone at a social gathering and immediately disliked that person?  Same holds true for having your hand crushed by someone and wondering what their issue was.  What your hands say matters.

Of course, parents use nonverbal hand communication to discipline children all the time.  I'm not talking about spanking; I mean the point and look.  Your child is across the room from you goofing off, doing something dangerous, chewing with their mouth open, whatever.  You make eye contact with them, put two fingers to your eyes and then, turn the same two fingers toward them. The child immediately stops the offensive action. You have spoken and perhaps even let them know what the punishment is without saying a word. Your hands have said it all. Of course, if you have not actually parented your child, the point and look will mean nothing just like the international phone gesture will mean nothing to a third world resident who has never seen a phone.  There has to be context.

I could go on and on.  There are literally tens of thousands of hand gestures to show joy, praise, excitement, loss, despair, love, hatred, shyness, openness. I will let you ponder your favorite hand phrases for awhile though..... What are your hands saying today?

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