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What to Do With Your Hands in Social Situations (& What NOT to Do)

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Ever feel like you don’t know what to do with your hands? Do you put them in your pockets? Move them around? Hold them in your lap? 

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You are not alone if you aren’t sure what to do with your hands! 

I made a video about how you can use your hands effectively in any scenario. Here’s how to use your hands like a pro.

YouTube video

The 4 C’s of Hand Gestures

Keep in mind the 4 C’s when it comes to hands and social interaction:

  1. Calm. People like to see calm hands. Why? Because it shows that you are relaxed, comfortable, and confident. Shaky hands look nervous, and gripping or tense hands indicate stress. Whatever you’re doing with your hands, keep them relaxed.
  2. Confident. Are our hands being purposeful? People tend to trust those who seem confident, and hand gestures are a great way to exude this trait. One of the best hand gestures that display confidence is the steeple. The steeple is when the fingers of both hands touch together (think of Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank). You can also use hand gestures that emphasize your words.
  3. Connection. Gestures that create a connection with the person you’re talking to help build rapport. Use hand-to-hand touch (if appropriate), hand-to-shoulder touching, or handshakes to develop a connection with others.
  4. Clean. No one wants to shake hands with someone who has dirt or sweat on their hands. Make sure your hands are clean before extending them to someone else. If you’re really sweaty, consider carrying a handkerchief around to dry off before a conversation.

What to Do With Hands While Sitting in a Conversation

When you’re sitting in a conversation, there are a few hand gestures that you can use to help make a good impression:

  • The Lap Desk. Place your hands resting on your lap to appear calm and relaxed. If you have a chair with an armrest, you can place them on the armrest to keep them visible.
  • Elbows on Desk. If you have a front-facing desk, consider placing your elbows on the desk with your hands clasped. Be careful not to grip or nervously massage your hands in this position.
  • The Steeple. Steeple your fingers together, either with your elbows in the air or on the table. This one’s good if you need a quick boost of confidence.
  • The Resting Chin. This is a great way to look interested and engaged in the conversation. Simply rest your chin on your hand, ensuring that your fingers are not obscuring your face.

What to Do With Hands During Standing Conversations

If you’re out and about, you’re likely going to be standing while having a conversation. Here are 2 great ways to use your hands:

  • The Elbow Bend. Bending your elbows and keeping your hands in front of you is a great place to use them, especially if you’re dynamically using hand gestures during a conversation.
  • Carry a Drink. Whenever you’re at a party, networking event, or business conference, try grabbing a drink (or a clicker or a pen). With a drink in hand, place your arm slightly to the side, so it’s not blocking your torso—this is a great place to anchor your hand without looking awkward.
  • Use Charismatic Gestures. Gestures can help you be more fluent, AND people understand you. They are a secret way to be more eloquent.
YouTube video

Read the article here: 60 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using and Their Meaning

What NOT to Do With Your Hands

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Avoid Pockets

Try to avoid putting your hands in your pockets. It is hard for people to get to know you when you hide your hands, making it harder for you to gesture – an important part of charisma.

Pro Tip: If this is a bad habit of yours, try wearing pants or a skirt without pockets.

Avoid Face Touching

Do not use your hands to touch your face as this is an anxious cue, and you might look more deceptive to others. Liars tend to touch their faces often—researchers found that Bill Clinton, for example, touched his nose 26 times during the Monica Lewinsky testimonial.

Want to learn more about your cues? Vanessa Van Edwards teaches 96 different cues in her book…

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