“If you slice your thumbnail down your cheek while smiling, it means you are flirting. The same gesture while looking askance means danger.” Thus began the lecture on Italian hand gestures we received from mountain guide Georg on a recent trip to the Dolomites. Georg said he has entire conversations with friends using only his hands. But he said to deliver with clarity and nuance, you must combine gestures with appropriate facial expressions.
We often see speakers ruled by outdated notions like keeping their hands clasped together in front of them; not raising their hands above their shoulders, or never using their hands at all. However, when you eliminate gestures from your speaking toolkit, you lose much of your power. And when your arms are glued
at your sides, it is unnatural, flattens the voice and inhibits breathing. Nor should you fake or employ overly emphatic gesturing, which screams “phony.”
To start, stand or sit in a neutral position, with your hands hanging loosely at your sides. Take a deep breath. Relate an account of a favorite trip. Within seconds you’ll begin to use your hands. Don’t force it, but allow yourself to gesture, whether it’s to create emphasis, describe a location, or walk the listener through your experience. Then, transfer this form of expression to any topic. Be more than a talking head. Command the space around you, add color to your descriptions, and captivate your audience with your entire body. Molto bene!