Is Talking With Your Hands Good or Bad?

Talking with hands

When talking with someone or even with ourselves, often we unknowingly end up moving our hands in a way that will support the thoughts or ideas that we are trying to communicate. At times we may end up using it too much as well. The question that arises here is, Is talking with hands good or bad?

Talking with hands or using hand gestures while talking is more common than we can think of. Think about the last time you saw someone talking over the phone. Or a frustrated driver ranting about the traffic in the car next to you? Do you recall them using their hands?

Most likely your answer would be yes. 

A probable reason for such wide use of hand gestures while talking could be the fact that gestures as a form of communication existed way before verbal communication came into existence. The ancestors initially started communicating through gestures followed by abstract sounds, which later led to the formulation of languages we speak today.

What is it called when you use your hands when you talk?

Talking with your hands is called gesticulation. This interesting term comes from a Latin term that essentially means “to mimic.”

To put it into simpler terms, gesticulation refers to movements people make during conversations with or without words. And although the category is quite broad, it includes hand gestures as one of its components. 

So, Is it okay to talk with your hands?

Yes, It is okay to talk with your hands and it is okay to own it as well. The only issue would be if you are swinging on the extremes. That is if you either avoid using your hands at all costs or if you are using them too much! But if you are just like most of us, comfortably and casually using your hands during a conversation, you are good.

This brings us to the next question,

Why do people talk with gestures?

Man gesturing towards laptop screen

Apart from the evolutionary standpoint of gestures being used as the initial mode of conversation, talking with hands or gestures can be blamed on your biology as well. It also indicates authenticity. 

So essentially, people talk with gestures because:

1. They have no control over it (kinda)

At times when people talk with their hands, they might not even realize it. And it doesn’t mean that they are being absent-minded or lost here. It just means that their brain is functioning well. 

Sounds Bizzare right?

It isn’t. A part of your brain called Broca’s area plays a very crucial role when it comes to your speech. But surprisingly, it is also linked with hand movements like waving. Further, people who have Broca’s aphasia, which is a form of speech dysfunction, struggle with gestures too.

This is a clear indication of the role your brain plays in your words as well as your hand movements while talking.

2. It shows their true feelings

Talking with hands can be very different when you are talking about something you genuinely care about versus something that barely interests you. Your hands would be freer, your gestures more animated and your passion would reflect through both your voice and your body language (including your hand movements).

These very things are taken as a sign of expressing your true feelings. So ideally, people might be using their hands to talk because they are truly engaged in the conversation.

Here is when we circle back to the question we asked right at the beginning of the blog.

Is talking with your hands good or bad?

Talking with hands can be both good and bad. It depends on the situation and how you are using them

Let’s first take a look at situations where talking with hands can be bad or rather unfavorable.

Is talking with hands bad?

A few cases when talking with your hands could end up being a no-no are:

1. Gesture-Speech mismatch

Talking with hands might turn out to be a bad idea in cases of gesture-speech mismatch. A gesture-speech mismatch is when your gestures (hand gestures in this case) do not correspond to or support what you are saying. 

An example of this would be to say that you are very sure about something while at the same time fidgeting with your fingers incessantly. For context, fidgeting with your fingers or even fidgeting in your seat is taken as a sign of confusion or nervousness

Two major reasons why gesture-speech mismatch must be avoided:

a. It prevents others from trusting us

Studies have shown that adults whose gestures don’t match their words are trusted less by others or viewed through skeptical eyes

But the same isn’t true for children. If children show such a mismatch, it is taken as a sign of learning from their end. It indicates that they have found solutions to the task at hand and in the excitement to get the task done might show such discrepancies in their hand movements and speech.

b. It negatively affects the interpretation of your message

What we mean here is when there are such inconsistencies in terms of speech and hand gestures, it might reinforce others to interpret your words in the wrong way

A group of researchers from the Netherland found that strategic use of hand gestures can affect how some words are heard from the listener’s perspective. It showed how the participants were 20% more likely to interpret the right meaning of the message being shared when the gestures matched the speech of the person.

When the gestures did not match words being spoken, the participants were 40% likely to interpret the wrong meaning of those words

2. Using no hands

Another big no when it comes to talking with hands is the absence of using hands. Not using any hands when talking be interpreted in a way that indicates that you are indifferent to what is being talked about. It can also be interpreted as arrogance or a zero fudges attitude from your end both of which are not very pleasant factors when it comes to effective communication.

3. Hiding your hands

Hiding your hands can make it seem like either you are not confident or that you are hiding something. Thus, it might end up being a barrier to effective communication

4. Excessive use of hands

Talking with your hands is recommended but using your hands to the point where it starts disturbing or annoying the listener is not.

Imagine trying to listen to a very important conversation but they keep moving their hands to a bizarre level. So now the attention that was supposed to give to what they were speaking is diverted to their continuous hand movements. It will only frustrate you or irritate you right?

So why make others go through such misery?

Besides if you are trying to use more of your hands while talking and have been using your hands to such a bizarre level, it might be time to take a step back. Cause if you don’t, well we just read how others perceive it!

Is it good to move your hands while talking?

Talking with hands is bad only considering certain situations. Besides that, it is usually seen as a good thing. At times it is even considered inappropriate to not use hands while talking. 

Reasons why talking with your hands is good

1. Frames your personality

When it comes to defining personality through the use of hand gestures, understanding that some hand gestures like opening your arms more freely are taken as signs of extraversion or dominance

Moving beyond specific hand gestures, according to Carol Goman using hands in general while talking elicits feelings of warmth, agreeableness, and positive energy from the person. On the other hand, keeping your hands still is seen as being cold, unresponsive, logical, and analytical

Wide arm hand gesture

2. Makes you more reliable

Instead of googling “What’s the easiest way to make others believe in you?” try to keep your palms open and facing towards the listener. Your open palms will signal honesty and openness on your part. It will also help the audience conclude that you have nothing to hide

3. Shows your expertise

Keeping your fingers together, both palms facing each other and the occasional movement of your arms communicate you have enough knowledge and expertise about the topic.

Hand gesture implying expertise

4. Helps in learning

Studies have shown how talking with their hands by teachers while teaching had a greater impact on enhancing the learning of both children and adults.

Studies were conducted among adult students learning a foreign language or trying to solve complex math problems. In both cases, their performance improved if the teacher gesticulated.

5. Helps in navigating thoughts

Apart from everything, using your hands when you are randomly talking about something helps in identifying a pattern and thus navigating your thoughts. 

So let’s say you are talking about how your day went terribly bad, but in the process of sharing the incob=viencies you faced, you might realize a couple of good things that happened to you on the same day. This might eventually lead you to say “Maybe the day wasn’t as bad after all.”

To know more about hand gestures and the meaning behind them, check out this blog on 60 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using and Their Meaning.

However not all hand gestures are universal and may have different meanings from culture to culture. 

What should you do with your hands while speaking?

Use your hands naturally while talking. If at any point it feels like you are managing your gestures, then it will become less of talking and more of a performance.

So, try to understand your pattern in terms of talking with your hands. Do you tend to use your hands a lot? or very little? Do you open your arms wide or keep them stuck to your side?

Whatever the pattern, identify it and if necessary work on it. But trying hard to incorporate hand movements while talking would only make it look very fake. It would be easily identified by the other people that your hand movements aren’t natural in case you are consciously trying to move your hands.

If you have no idea what to do with your hands, here is a quick tip Use functional gesturing.

Functional gesturing refers to moving your hands or arms in a way that complements your words.

A couple of easy functional gestures are:

a. The Chop

Using chop as a gesture while talking helps in emphasizing a point and thus acts as a good attention grabber. To use this hand movement, all you have to do is take the side of one of your hands and move it to the palm of your other hand as if you were trying to chop something using your hands.

b. Comparision

The best way to talk about two things at a time is by using the comparison hand gesture. It would require you to use both of your hands in a way that the movement of one of your hands represents one thing to be compared and that of the other represents the second thing to be compared.

It helps others in easily identifying which thing you are trying to talk about and thus helps in making a clear distinction between them.

c. Emotion gesturing

Emotion gesturing is to be used when you are trying to say a contradictory statement. Because emotion changes so quickly, you can show this change or rather contradiction through your hands. You can try to move both of your hands from one side to the other as you speak of one emotion and contradict it with the other emotion.

Where should you keep your hands while talking?

Few quick tips to understand where you should and should not keep your hands are given below:

  1. Try to bridge the gap between you and others by extending your arms as and when possible.
  2. Prefer using universal hand gestures rather than some gestures that others might not be aware of.
  3. Avoid sitting or standing with their arms crossed or in a pocket which would make you less approachable.
  4. Avoid wringing your hands as it signals nervousness.

People Also Ask:

Is talking with your hands a sign of intelligence?

Talking with hands could actually be a sign of intelligence, at least that’s what research says!

The use of hand gestures in children in fact predicts their future intelligence. How?

A study showed that 18 months olds who use more hand gestures while trying to communicate had a tremendous positive impact on the development of language abilities later. So as far as intelligence in terms of communication is concerned, talking with your hands could definitely be a sign of higher intelligence.

Other studies have shown how people with high fluid intelligence tend to use more representational hand movements. They do it while describing how they solved a certain problem. This indicates that they end up engaging in a lot of mental representation while problem-solving which isn’t the case with people with low fluid intelligence.

Is talking with your hands genetic?

Talking with hands isn’t something that we only learn after seeing others around us do so. In fact, it is believed that gestures are more or less innate. If that sounds bizarre studies are here to prove it for you.

Spencer Kelly‘s study proved that the brain tends to view gestures as another form of speech. Or that gesture is more part of a language. Although this point of view is a little controversial, the idea that talking with your hands is genetic or something you are born with can be understood from observing babies.

Even in their initial few days, babies tend to communicate through gestures as they lack the ability to converse. Assuming that they learned it by observing people around them is a little difficult to digest considering they are only a couple of days or weeks old.

Yet to put an end to these doubts, we can take the case of children who are born with no ability to see. Even these children demonstrate using similar gestures as any other children. And it would be difficult for them to observe people around them due to their blindness, thus proving that you are in fact born with the ability to talk with your hands

Is talking with your hands attractive?

While attraction is more or less a subjective idea. That is, some people could actually find it attractive when you talk with your hands while others might be indifferent or even annoyed by it.

However, just like universal gestures, a couple of hand movements are often seen in a more positive light or are more attractive than others. These would involve avoiding basic gestures like keeping your arms crossed which may make you seem defensive. You must also avoid keeping your hands hidden by keeping them in your pockets as it makes others trust you less. Apart from that avoid keeping your hands behind your back as it shows arrogance, superiority, and defensiveness.

But trying to know if your partner finds you talking with your hands attractive, then that is something only they can answer. As we mentioned before, it is subjective and may be very different for different people.

Is talking with your hands a sign of anxiety?

Anxious man

Talking with your hands, in general, is not a sign of anxiety. But talking with your hands excessively or avoiding the use of any gestures can stem from anxiety.

Anxiety affects almost all of your body movements including your hand gestures. Your palms may become more sweaty, your fingers may start twitching. Or you may find it difficult to move your hands altogether. Yet another way your hand movements can be attributed to anxiety is when you bring your hands closer to your face often while talking. Or you keep playing with your hands or fidgeting with your fingers.

While all these gestures signal nervousness, at times it could be because the individual is very anxious. These gestures can also end up becoming barriers to effective communication.

In such cases, you can try to take a minute to calm yourself. Do that by breathing slowly and deeply a couple of times. If you are moving your hands and fingers a lot, try to hold both your hands together for some time. And if the thought of moving your hands too much or too little is what is making you anxious, focus on the message you want to share rather than the way you communicate it.

Is talking with your hands feminine?

For some weird reason, it is sometimes believed that talking with hands is feminine. While one of the reasons for this could be the fact that women tend to be more expressive while communicating. And as we discussed earlier, these emotions are channelized through hand movements as well.

However, talking with hands is not feminine per se. In fact, talking with hands is a very common and effective way of communicating. So if someone has fed this idea to you that “Talking with hands is feminine and isn’t something that a man should do,” here is the truth, they lied.

Final Words

Talking with hands is a great way of communicating effectively. It ensures that the right message reaches the listeners. It can also define your personality to some extent. Above that hand gestures are a great way to show your openness or to show authority.

Talking with hands can end up being a barrier if there is a mismatch between your gestures and your speech. Further using your hands excessively or avoiding their use altogether can also be perceived in a negative light.

Talking with your hands can further act as a sign of intelligence as well as anxiety. However, the use of hand gestures is not limited to a certain gender and is purely a tool to help you communicate better.

If you are looking for a way to talk with your hands more effectively and are seeking help from an expert, check out frantically speaking. We would be more than happy to help you out.

Enroll in our transformative
1:1 Coaching Program

Schedule a call with our expert communication coach to know if this program would be the right fit for you

Kindly drop your contact details so that we can arrange call back