I find it interesting how people use their hands when they talk, kind of like a comedy routine. Just about everyone does it, yours truly included. We use our hands to emphasize a point, exemplify something, but more than anything we use them to command the attention of our audience. So much so, people tend to use hands as a second set of lips. Actually, I do not believe we can help ourselves as we tend to emulate everyone also suffering from the same affliction.
I find it difficult to talk without the use of hands, and it seems the people who can do so are few and far between (and generally tend to be quite boring). Comedians and politicians often use their hands to emphasize a point. In fact, some people are better remembered not for what they said, but how they said it instead. Comedian Jack Benny exemplifies the point of someone who is better remembered for his mannerisms than his jokes. Jack could get a laugh simply by looking at people or using his hands.
The occasional hand gesture is fine but it becomes somewhat distracting and annoying when you start using your hands excessively thereby taking on the appearance of an animated windmill. Those who are deaf have a legitimate excuse, but the rest of us do not want to suffer with someone who seems to be going through mime school.
I tend to believe there are three types of active uses of the hand for communications: what I call "The Fencer," "The Gunslinger," and "The Punctuator." "The Fencer" (aka "The Boxer") uses his hands to swirl, parry and thrust himself in a debate; in his mind, he is in the midst of a dual with an opponent, but with a lot of finesse and footwork. Make no mistake, such histrionics represent a contest to dominate or win over an opponent. Then we have "The Gunslinger" who uses his hands less than the others, often keeping them hidden in his pockets as he contemplates a response to a question, but when he responds, out come the hands like six-guns blazing and shooting down his opponent. The "Punctuator" tends to be less threatening and more academic in nature. Here, hands are used to highlight a point, such as using two fingers on both hands to make the "quotes" sign, or an exclamation point, an underline or a period. Do we tend to favor one form over another? Sometimes, but I tend to believe we use all three forms to suit our needs in a conversation.
What I find most interesting in our use of hands is that we are usually not cognizant we are using them in our daily discourse. Sometimes I will parody a friend when I notice they are speaking excessively with their hands. This usually results in a look of total surprise as they were unaware of the use of their hands. It's all very subliminal.
Using our hands is a natural part of the way we communicate. However, if you are worried you use your hands excessively, either ask your friends, or better yet, try sitting on your hands during a conversation. If one or both hands pop out, you probably use them to excess.
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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