Body Language: What Do You Do With Your Palms?
By Adam Eason
When you examine body language, throughout history, the open palm has been associated with truth, honesty, allegiance and submission. Many oaths are still taken with the palm of the hand over the heart. Even footballers do this when singing the national anthems before international games.
You can notice this when exploring body language: The palm is held in the air when somebody is giving evidence in court of law. One of the most valuable clues to discovering whether someone is being honest and open or not, is to watch for palm displays. Humans generally use their palms to show submission or surrender or to show they are not a threat, they are unarmed and therefore are coming in peace.
Salespeople are often taught to watch for a customer's exposed palms in their body language when they give reasons or objections why they can't buy a product, because when someone is giving valid reasons, they usually show their palms. When people are being open in explaining their reasons they use their hands and flash their palms whereas someone who isn't telling the truth is likely to give the same verbal responses but conceal their hands.
Thebody language of palms were originally like the vocal cords of body language because they did more 'talking' than any other body part and putting them away was like keeping one's mouth shut!
It is possible to appear more open and credible by practising open palm gestures when communicating with others.
Interestingly, as the open palm gestures become habitual, the tendency to tell untruths diminishes. Most people find it difficult to lie with their palms exposed because of the law of cause and effect.
If a person is being open they'll expose their palms, but just having their palms exposed makes it difficult for the person to tell a convincing lie. This is because gestures and emotions are directly linked to each other. If you feel defensive for example, you're likely to cross your arms across your chest.
But if you simply cross your arms you may well begin to experience defensive feelings. And if you are talking with your palms exposed it puts even more pressure on the other person to be truthful too. In other words, open palms can help to suppress some of the false information others may tell and encourage them to be more open with you.
There are three main palm command gestures: The palm up position, the palm down position and the palm closed-finger pointed position.
Let's say you asked someone to lift something and carry it to another location. We'll assume that you use the same language and tonality and facial expressions in each example, and that you change only the position of your palm.
The palm facing up is used as a submissive, non-threatening gesture, reminiscent of the pleading gesture of a street beggar and, from an evolutionary perspective, shows the person holds no weapons. The person being asked to move the item will not feel threatened by your request. If you want someone to talk you can use the palm up as a "handover" gesture to let them know you expect them to talk and that you're ready to listen.
The palm up gesture became modified over the centuries and gestures like the single palm raised in the air, the palm over the heart and many other variations developed.
When the palm is turned to face downwards, you project immediate authority. The other person will sense that you've given them an order to move the item and may begin to feel antagonistic towards you, depending on your relationship with them or the position you have in the work environment.
For example, if the other person was someone of equal status, they might resist a palm down request and would be more likely to comply if you'd used the palm up position. If the person is your subordinate, the palm-down gesture is seen as acceptable because you have the authority to use it.
The Nazi salute had the palm facing directly down and was the symbol of power and tyranny during the third Reich. If Adolf Hitler had used his salute in the palm up position not as many people would have taken him seriously - they may even have laughed! At least, I would have.
When couple walk hand-in-hand the dominant partner, walks slightly in front with his hand in the above position, palm facing backwards while the other one has their palm facing forward. This simple little position immediately reveals to an observer who wears the trousers in that relationship!
Aggressive, palm down beating gestures make your ideas, opinions and remarks more forceful as you speak, but they are decidedly unappealing to many, and especially in courtship or attraction. Like the sumo wrestlers foot stomp, palm down gestures are controlled subcortically by basal ganglia.
The basal ganglia are primeval motor centres embedded in our brain's cerebral hemispheres that govern a reptilian display called the High Stand. Like when iguana's push-up to seem "bigger" to rival males, our palm down gestures derive from the ancestral high stand display. Down turned palms are less attractive because they suggest power at the expense of friendliness.
In the 1950s, Elvis Presley gestured with upturned palms to draw women near. The palm down hand signals of today's rap singers seem to say "get out of my face."
The palm closed finger pointed is a fist where the finger is used like a symbolic club which the speaker figuratively beats the listeners into submission. Subconsciously, it evokes negative feelings in others because it precedes a right over-arm blow, a primal move most primates use in a physical attack.
The palm closed finger pointed gesture is one of the most annoying gestures anyone can use while speaking, particularly when it beats to the speaker's words. In some countries such a Malaysia and the Philippines, finger pointing at a person is an insult and so the thumb is used to give direction.
Research has shown that speakers who use the finger pointed position are considered aggressive, belligerent and rude! The audience will often become pre-occupied with making personal judgements about you rather than listening to the content of what you are saying, and you don't want that do you?
To avoid this, you can squeeze your fingers against your thumb to make an ok type of gesture and talk using this position, you'll then come across authoritative but not aggressive. I have taught this gesture to groups of speakers, politicians and business leaders and audience reactions to those using the finger tip touch gesture were seen as thoughtful, goal-oriented and focused. Tony Blair always points and iterates his words with this gesture when speaking and when in interviews.
About the Author
Adam is a best selling author, consultant and speaker please visit his website for a vast range of personal development resources and to receive your free, instantly downloadable hypnosis session and amazing ebook: http://www.adam-eason.com Thanks.
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