It’s Hands and Fingers All Over Again

Welcome to this month’s insight into business body language. These posts are the place to get tips on the signals your body is sending and how to modify your body language to match your business message.

bbl-cover-version-3aLast month we took a first look at hands and fingers, the last of the body’s broadcast centers. Research shows that the hands and fingers are the least important component in sending a message. It’s hard to believe, because we all know someone who “talks with their hands.”

When you encounter someone who talks with their hands, close your eyes for a moment and see if their message has the same impact without the visuals. Do the gestures add to the meaning of the business conversation or do they distract from the main point?

talking hands

Different hand gestures come into popularity and then fade away. Almost inevitably, some of these gestures (such as fist bumping or high fiving) make their way into business body language for at least a brief period.

fist bump

Unless you are very familiar with the person AND the organizational culture, I recommend staying away from these alternative greeting styles. Business body language is generally 10 or so years behind popular culture. Use this measure: If your grandfather would use the hand gesture in a business setting, you can, too.

We’ve concluded our overview of the five broadcast centers of the body – face, legs and feet, arms, torso, and fingers and hands. Next month’s post will change the focus from individual gestures to specific situations and discuss how you can interpret what is happening and what body language might work well in a given situation.fists w glasses


  1. Over the next month, observe how frequently people use hand gestures like fist bumping and high fiving in business settings. Did those gestures strengthen the message? Will you adopt the practice?
  2. Throughout the month, focus on which hand and finger gestures you use most frequently. Think about the message your hands and fingers are sending. Is it the message you want people to receive?

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