Body Language

by Mary-Louise Angoujard

Hands and arms

The way in which you position your hands and arms (and Feet and legs) is significant in terms of displaying your mental attitudes at that moment: attitudes related to yourself, to other parties present and to your environment.

Hands

In synergology, the idea is that ‘the hands are the visible part of the brain’. Hands which are more relaxed and open indicate a more open mental attitude towards communication in that moment. Closed hands indicate the opposite.

For example, folding your arms in front may signify that you feel

  • Physically uncomfortable – in other words, cold
  • Emotionally uncomfortable, in other words, embarrassed (I have a big tummy), ashamed, defensive or (if the hands are also clenched) angry.

In essence, this is a self-comforting, self-protective gesture. Some people may say ‘but I always sit/stand like that!’ Actually, no-one stands like that when they feel completely at ease and are at their most confident and self-assured.

Exercises

The next time you find yourself crossing your arms, notice how you feel at that moment and ask yourself what type or level of discomfort has created your unconscious desire to fold your arms in front of your body.

Another good exercise is to notice when others are sitting that way and try to put them more at ease; get them to talk about something they love, or an experience that was particularly inspiring, or pleasant, or otherwise positive. Eventually, their body language will ‘open up’ as if by magic, because their mental focus will have changed from whatever it was that made them fold their arms in the first place!

Shaking hands

We’ve all been on the receiving end of bad handshakes! Some people have a crushing, painful handshake, which is sometimes simply due to over-enthusiasm, but could indicate a desire to dominate. Others have a limp fish handshake, which is just as undesirable, as it feels strange and communicates a lack of presence and/or enthusiasm.

I have met people who fold their middle finger into the other person’s palm. This not only feels very strange (!), but it also raises the question of whether it means something: for example, is it part of a secret cult?

Some people stand as far back as possible and thrust their arm straight out, while others stand too close for comfort.

The best, most comfortable handshake for both parties begins with standing an acceptable distance away from the other person; in other words, there should be about a 45-degree bend in the elbow of each party. With the hand held with palm open and vertical, grasp the hand of the other person firmly, while meeting their eyes and smiling (as appropriate). Then let go in a relaxed, natural way. That’s it!

Tips

If you tend to get clammy hands and there’s a men’s or ladies’ room that you can visit just before a meeting, then you can run cold water over your wrists, which should help with the problem. If not, try carrying a handkerchief in your pocket and discreetly using it to dry your hands a minute or two before you have to offer your handshake.

However, nervous reactions, such as clammy hands, are only symptoms that your inner confidence needs bolstering, so once again, the key is to work on your mental attitude and focus. Ask yourself, ‘What is making me feel nervous? What is it about this situation, or this person, that makes me doubt myself?’ By exploring the answers to these questions, you will find the key to leaving such reactions behind.