GESTURES - Meaningful Movements

Let us start with a typical gesture. What is Mullder communicating with his hands and head?


This 6 second long episode contains several nonverbal behaviors we can detect. Watch it a couple of times then looking away try to summarize what you saw. Finally come back again and check it. Here is my list:

- Taking a deep breath

- Turning head to the right

- Looking to the right

- Blinking at least 10 times

- Raising shoulders

- Rolling eyes

- Turning head back and down

- Pressing lips together

- Touching forehead with left arm

- Covering/Closing eyes

- Stroking face with left hand

- Blocking mouth with three fingers

- Nodding head two times

- Keeping eye-contact with the other person

- Closing eyes again

- Looking to the left, down

- Turning head to the left

Gestures are learnt, they are not universal. Gestures carry culture specific meanings. If you learn to observe this often times involuntary and silent expression channel, you can make use of it very quickly.

Let me show you five typical gesture families and examples our body does - consciously or unconsciously.

Look at this short movie clip:


We can see a clenched fist in the beginning. It is displaying the person's internal experiences and states (i.e. emotions, intentions, attitudes). This is why we call this family AFFECT DISPLAYS. They can convey information on how the other person is feeling. It cannot tell what triggered that feeling. It cannot necessarily tell us who is the target of that emotion either. But if we detect it, we have additional information in the situation.

Affect displays make your colleagues ask you "What's wrong? You look angry." It is because your body is leaking out your internal world even if you don't inted to share it with anyone. Or when you look at someone in the office and you ask "You look happy, Mary. What's up my friend?" She did not tell you anything (verbally) but as she was sitting next to you smiling with sparkling eyes, nodding her head as if she was listening to powerful music you immediately knew there was something going on.

What you can learn here and improve is to find the ways how you can appropriately use your affect displays and to be sensitive to others' displays in order to get the whole picture of the circumstances.

What does this display tell you about the man's possible feelings?


Yes, something triggered disgust in him.

Now let us see the second family of gestures.

First look at this short video:


When your body is doing something in order for you to feel better in the situation, we see the example of the ADAPTORS. When we are nervous or uncomfortable, we engage in comforting or self-soothing gestures. Just think of your last public speaking experience. What did your body do to calm itself? You may even don't remember. If someone has something to hide, these gestures may appear and give the person out. Look at these adaptors:


Here is another example:


Or this one:


Look at this one. It is very telling:


The following examples all belong to adaptors. We do them to sooth ourselves or they just appear as nervous movements or we defend ourselves when we don't feel safe (it is also called as "blocking behavior"):

(1) rubbing the other hand or arm; (2) wringing hands; (3) cracking knuckles, (4) rubbing the suprasternal notch (the indentation in the middle of the collar bone); (5) biting tongue/lips; (6) preening (playing with hair or adjusting clothes); (7) pacing (hopping); (8) fidgeting; (9) tapping; (10) crossed arms; (11) eye blocking (see Mulder above); (12) clutching purse, drink, book in front of the body, placing laptop or phone in front of the body; (13) touching the mouth or forehead; (14) freezing hands in front of your lap

What you can learn here is to control your own adaptors and recognize them in others. Why is it important? Because adaptors indicate anxiety and nervousness. It is the number one enemy of your ability to show confidence. These cues signal to others that you are uncomfortable in your own skin. They can take advantage of it and make decisions based on their perception.

Let us meet the third family member:


We manipulate the conversations with these gestures. The are called REGULATORS. They let the people in the conversation know how the conversation is going or what the next step should be. They work like punctuation in verbal communication. They lubricate the discussion. They might look like an emotional expression but their primary function is to express your intention. When I am actively listening to you I nod my head showing you that I am still with you. But when I raise my hand and show you my palm, you will know I intend to stop you. When you look to the right, far-far away I detect that you are using distanting language showing me disagreement. I can perceive that you think "I wish I was someplace else. How long will this conversation take?"

Being competent at detecting regulators make you a great listener and excellent company at any meeting or party. If you demonstrate it over and over, your business partners, customers and stakeholders will trust you more and more.

What do these regulators tell you?


And this one?


Here is the fourth family of gestures:


These body movements go with words to create a congruent message. They are called ILLUSTRATORS. Your body is supporting what you are saying. Without them you would be a robot. The conversation is enhanced by them. The listener can decode the message more easily with them. Using them is highly recommended.

This is exactly where you can improve in this area. Being more aware of your illustrators you can have more influence on others. Your suggestive power is increasing and your communication is becoming more assertive.


Finally here is the fifth element.


These gestures have precise meaning known by all members of an ethnic group, culture or sub-culture. We signal these messages, called EMBLEMS, consciously. We can use them instead of words. The other person will understand us in the situation. Just think of ""Thumbs up!". As it is very much culture specific what you can learn here is this intercultural dimension of your body behavior.

Do you remember this?


How about this?


Or this?


GESTURES COACHING aims to sharpen your awareness of what your or others' bodies do during communication. You will become alert to the different features of the bodily channel.

Together we observe others as they are communicating. We record your communication too and analyze it. You will soon become an expert at evaluating these gestural characteristics of the human body.

By paying attention to your own body when communicating with others you will have greater influence on them. By paying attention to others, you can collect useful information that can be used during the further stages of the communication. You can ask more accurate and appropriate questions. You become a better influencer, teacher or salesman.

When you feel you can read the body we can say good-bye to each other. The coaching process is over.

Next time you may want to work on another topic so you can call me to work on the FACIAL EXPRESSIONS you use when communicating with others. This is the fifth field in my coaching portfolio (see above by clicking on the fifth picture).

To read more about the incongruent messages, you can go to the BLOG section.

To have more information about the coaching with me, you can go to the CONTACT section.

Key Features


Variables: Emblems , Adaptors, Illustrators, Regulators, Affect displays, Blocking behavior, Culture

Examples: Business meeting, Etiquette, Intercultural awareness, Stress management, Sex differences, Attitude