Hand Gestures You Should Avoid When Talking

Hand Gestures You Should Avoid When Talking

Try having a discussion with your arms at your side and without moving them. Weird, right? We always talk with our hands whether we know it or not. But are your hands saying the right things to hiring managers during interviews? Your words may not be matching your hand gestures. Here is some advice for using hand gestures when you speak and the hand gestures you should be avoiding.


Cultures vary, so hand gestures that work for you in your job market may send a very negative message in another job market. Research what works and what not to do especially if you are interviewing with companies overseas. Here are some interesting examples of hand gestures and their perceptions around the world.

1. Do Not Leave Your Hands Idle

Imagine watching someone talk for hours without ever moving his or her hands. You might think the person is either drugged or numb.

Moving your hands while you speak will illustrate to the audience that you understand what you are talking about. If you stop using your hands, the audience will start to understand you less because your hands illustrate key points they should be paying attention to.

2. Never Keep “Both” Hands in Your Pocket

Try this yourself:

  1. Read a portion of the famous paragraph below with one hand in your pocket and the other hand extended.
  2. Now, read the same paragraph with both hands in your pocket.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.

Do you notice the difference when you speak? One hand in the pocket feels confident and laid back while both hands in pockets almost feels like you are hiding and nervous about what you are saying.

Granted, the “one hand in my pocket” hand gesture may not always work. But if you have a naturally intimidating presence, it may help keep others comfortable. If not, try talking with both hands OUT of your pocket.

3. Know the Right Times to Cross Your Arms

One of the most identifiable hand gestures known is crossing your arms. Everyone from babies to adults cross their arms when they wish to close themselves off. It is a way of saying, “I am done listening. I am closing you out.” Needless to say, this body language is not approachable.

What you will see many do to show they are listening and welcoming, or displaying leadership and control, is to hold their arms extended almost in a position that resembles a “Jesus Christ” pose. The arms are extended, welcoming, and in many ways look like an offer of a hug.

Oddly, people are naturally conditioned to avoid or stop talking to people with crossed arms, yet we find those with open arms to be welcoming and charismatic.

4. Avoid the Wringing of Your Hands

Wringing your hands looks like you are tense, nervous, or in some cases, uncontrollably upset. You may see different types of this gesture such as:

  • Wringing your hands by holding the palms together and moving them back and forth like an evil scientist with a plan!
  • Wringing your hands by cupping your hands and moving them slowly. This looks like you are praying for help in some strange way or begging for forgiveness.
  • Interlacing your fingers and wringing your hands also looks like you are nervous and trying to figure exactly what is wrong while you are talking.

Important: The worst is “clenched fist” ringing of the hands. This is always perceived as aggression and looks as if a person is about to start throwing punches or wants to hurt someone.

5. Avoid Hand Gestures That Look Fake

People today are starving for authenticity. The last thing you want to do is try to fake it. If you are lacking confidence and start using these hand gestures to cover up your true emotion...you will look silly.

For example, have you ever seen a public access TV commercial? A local business owner is nervous about being on television, so he or she tries to look confident by using hand gestures they read about online. And they end up looking silly and downright hilarious.

The best thing you can do to make sure your hand gestures do not backfire is practice until the uncomfortable feeling of being expressive with hands goes away. When you learn to work it into your natural way of speaking, it will come across as authentic. If you do not, you may end up looking like a person from these bad commercials.

In conclusion

You are always talking with your hands. Just do not fall into the bad habits seen below:

  1. Not moving hands
  2. Both hands in pockets
  3. Crossing arms
  4. Hand-wringing
  5. Fake gestures

The more authentic you are to people, the more they will see you as a positive person to work with and quite possibly a great leader!

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