Two Thumbs Up: The Business Etiquette of Hand Gestures

Have you ever made an instant judgment about a person based on the way they shook your hand? Are you unsure what to do with your hands while speaking, or have you been distracted by the hand gestures a speaker used?

Body language plays an important role in the opinions (both conscious and unconscious) we develop of one another. By being intentional with your body language, you can change how people perceive you. The study of body language in the business world is broad. Today we’ll narrow in on best practices for handshakes and hand gestures.

The Handshake

As Professor Allan Pease, a body language expert, states, “People form up to 90% of their (first) impression in under four minutes.” The simple, non-verbal action of a handshake can set the tone for a professional relationship. Make it count and make it positive with these tips:

  • If you are sitting down, rise to meet the handshake.
  • Practice holding things such as your meeting notes, your bag, or your drink in your left hand so you are prepared to shake with your right.
  • Attempt to give the same amount of pressure you receive. Grip firmly, not too strongly or limply.
  • Keep your handshake vertical.
  • Keep your handshake brief and maintain eye contact.

Practicing good handshake etiquette positions you as an equal in the relationship, rather than as dominating or submissive. Now that’s a lasting good impression.

Hand Gestures

Young woman using open hand gestures while speakingWhen speaking, you convey meaning not only with your words, but with your movements. Gestures can make your audience more receptive to your message, or cause them to tune out. Before your next interview or presentation, brush up on these hand gesture dos and don’ts.

  • Listing: When referring to a number under five, show the number with your hand. This gesture acts like a highlighter, helping the audience retain key points.
  • The Open Upward Palm: Hold your hands open, palm up. This gesture suggests that you are being open and honest with the audience.
  • This and That: Use your hands to represent two different subjects or groups. Your left hand represents the 1st subject and the right hand represents the 2nd subject. Utilize the appropriate hand when referencing that subject or group.
  • Conducting: Avoid repetitive motions and patterns of movement. This can cause the audience to lose interest.
  • The Pointer Jab: Avoid pointing at the audience for emphasis. This gesture is often perceived as aggressive and belittling.

Hand gestures are a small thing that can have a big impact on your job hunt or other business endeavor. To make sure your gestures are working for, not against you, practice speaking in front of a mirror and train yourself to use positive, non-confrontational gestures at the appropriate time.

If you are a workforce professional, consider sharing this article with your colleagues and the job seekers with whom you work. If you have other favorite resources or an example about body language best practices, please share in the comments.

 

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