A single gesture, just like words can exert power. It can direct, motivate, infuriate, and even show that you appreciate with out uttering a single word.
Speaking With Gestures
It is defined as an expression, thought, feeling, or statement by the movement of the fingers, hands, arms or body. It has been the subject of study for thousands of years.
More importantly, as we travel and speak to larger audiences, it is important that we understand the potential meanings.
In the 1930s there was a scholar who called himself a gesture-theorist. In the present we can learn more about the act under the science of body language.
This unique kind of body language can have so much power, it can cause harm in a number of ways.
Gestures to Avoid
Consider the end of one July fireworks caused by a foot and hand body language. It cost Senator Larry Craig $500, ten days in jail and his job as a US senator. The arresting officer recognized the hand and foot movement as overtures to homosexual sex.
The thumbs up sign may have been first immortalized by Hollywood World One Airplane Pilots. Now it is a Hillary Clinton Trademark, only she uses both thumbs up.
It gets more tacky from here (pun intended). You no doubt remember the push-the-thumbtack-into-the-teleprompter motion to emphasize what is being said of one famous speaker.
Actually this may have originated from John F. Kennedy.
Lack of tack is not left to the president or president wanna bees. Who can forget air quotes. The hand motion has become cliche.
Then there is the more notorious double peace sign by the soon to resign president Nixon. His sign will live in the history books forever.
Yes, nonverbal communication can speak volumes. Consider how this communication can also get you in trouble.
If you hitch-hike in the US the traditional way to get a ride is the hand formed into a fist and the thumb up in the air.In Nigeria, rather than getting a ride, you will probably get beat up. It is considered a rude signal.
In Australia it is an unspeakable term for what you should do to yourself.
You would especially not want to do it to a police officer. One American couple who got off easy for failure to signal on the grounds they were tourists. Thinking they were saying thank you and giving the thumbs up sign, they ended up having their car searched and paying an expensive ticket.
I Love You
There are more positive signs. Some have made it into popular custom and usage.
The sign language...I love you...has crossed the barrier and has made it into the lexicon of common cultural hand communication.
With the thumb pointing out, index finger pointing up in the air, little finger pointing up in the air and the two middle fingers pointing straight down. Start using this with the ones you love. Make it your signature sign. Once recognized as yours, start to use it in other places but not in speeches.
It is best not to become overly familiar with your audience. You don't say I love you to strangers, why would you sign that to an audience.
Then there is the shape of the letter L for looser held to the forehead.
How about the air sig. You know, the index finger and thumb together as if your holding a pen and moving in a circle, a squiggle line or even a check mark. You may have done it when catching the eye of your waitress across the room to communicate, check please.
Public Speaking Gestures Home Page and more on this nonverbal communication.