How to Read The Most Basic Body Language: Hand And Arm Gestures

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The most commonly used medium for communication is language:  words, phrases, sentences – verbal communication.  But what about the gestures we use?  Don’t they count for something? 

A vast number of studies have established that people make use of hand and body gestures in order to reinforce what they are saying – for stress and emphasis on the idea they wish to get across.  However, this body language may also betray the speaker himself, for instance, when he attempts to bend the truth or to hide certain emotions he doesn’t want to be seen. 

As verbal communication varies from culture to culture, nonverbal cues may also vary.  It is important to take note, therefore, that certain gestures in one culture may mean nothing to another, and still may mean the opposite to yet another culture.

Here are a few basics to reading hand and arm gestures:

The Open Palm

This gesture is associated with truth, honesty, fidelity and submission.

Palm-up Position

This is a submissive and non-threatening gesture, likened to what a beggar would use when he pleads. People use this signal to complement kind requests and suggestions.

Palm-down Position

Opposite to the palm-up position, this gesture conveys authority.  It is usually associated with the giving of strict demands and absolute facts.

Palm-closed-finger-pointed Position

The speaker in this case is figuratively beating his listener into submission.  This can be one of the most irritating gestures used in conversation.

Dominant Handshakes

In a handshake, the dominant person’s palm is facing downward – congruent with the dominant palm-down position mentioned earlier.

Submissive Handshakes

On the other hand, if you wish to convey to the other person that you are accepting his dominance over the situation, a submissive handshake is done with your hand facing upward – congruent with the submissive palm-down position mentioned earlier.

Rubbing the Palms Together

This is a way for people to convey positive expectation. Rubbing the Finger and the Thumb

The index finger is the one most commonly used in this gesture, and is often used when the speaker is thinking of saving or getting more money out of a deal.

Clenching Hands

This cue is often associated with frustrated or hostile attitude.

Gripping Hands, Arms and Wrists Behind the Back

People of authority like the military, policemen, teachers, etc., use this gesture to stress their dominance over their subordinates or over the area that they cover.

Read On: 100 Reasons Why Women Fall for Gay Men

More from this series:

How to Read the Most Basic Body Language:  Leg Gestures

How to Read the Most Basic Body Language:  Male Courtship Signals

How to Read the Most Basic Body Language:  Female Courtship Signals

How to Read the Most Basic Body Language:  Other Popular Gestures

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Allan Pease. Body language: how to read others’ thoughts by their gestures


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