Our hands are composed of 27 small bones, all connected together through dozens of ligaments and numerous tiny muscles to move our joints. According to researchers, there are more amounts of nerve connections between our hands and our brain than any other part of the body making it the most revealing and visible area of our body when trying to read body language. These are some of the many popular hand gestures:
- Rubbing Hands: When someone quickly rubs their palms together, it’s a sign of positive expectation. Haven’t you ever made exciting plans and while talking about them with someone, you rubbed your hands in impatience looking forward to the event? Observe some people who are about to throw dice…they’ll quickly rub the dice inside their palms before throwing it in hopes of good fortune, go to a local club and watch the MC introduce his special guest for that night…they’ll rub heir hands while saying “We have a special treat tonight ___”. One thing you have to notice though is the speed in which the person is rubbing their hands together. If a person rubs their hands together quickly this means they are hoping for an honest positive outcome for themselves and/or everyone, whereas if they rub their hands slowly, this can clearly be interpreted as a sign of deviousness and sneakiness. Many used car salesman use the slow rubbing hands movement while trying to get rid of one of their old black smoke exhaust bombs.
- Clenched Hands: This is one of those subtle gestures that may try to portray confidence or respect when it fact it really means frustration, restraint, anxiety or negative thoughts. There are different ways of using the clenched hands gesture: some have their hands clenched in front of their faces while sitting and resting their elbows on the table, others rest their clenched hands on the table or their lap while many simply clench their hands in front of their stomach or crotch while standing up. The height in which the hands are held demonstrates the level of frustration, clenched hands in front of the face means more frustration than clenched hands on the lap.
- The Monty Burns: One of my favourites – this is when the fingers of one hand slight press against the fingers of the other creating the shape of a church rooftop, which is interesting because it resembles the act of praying with your hands…sometimes the fingers will squish down and back up expanding and compressing the fingers into a triangle shape. This gesture doesn’t necessarily have to be in front of the person, as many use this gesture on their lap or in front of the lower abdomen while sitting as well. Unlike any other of the gestures displayed in body language, this gesture is the only one you can read in isolation without looking for groups/clusters of other gestures – it is a clear sign the person has a lot of confidence and feels superior.
- Back Held Hands: There are some people that like walking around while holding their hands behind their back, this is the typical posture used by army sergeants, principals at school roaming the hallway and policemen patrolling the streets. The total opposite of crossing your arms, this hand/arm gesture exposes the vulnerable chest with its vital organs, stomach, crotch, and neck in an attempt to demonstrate fearlessness, superiority and self-confidence (as can be seen in the example on the left by the Head Priest walking with his disciple). One thing to note though is that this gesture is referring to the hold of palm over hand (as mentioned in the Palms & Thumbs article, a palm downwards reflects the sign of authority). If however, the person doesn’t have their palms over their hand but instead grips their wrist with the other hand behind their back, it says something completely different. Instead, it displays frustration and self-control, as if refraining themselves from using that gripped hand to punch or slap someone. The higher up the arm the grip of the hand, the more frustrated the person is, some even gripping themselves at the elbow. This gesture can commonly be observed in courtrooms when lawyers are interviewing the accused or witnesses.
- Pros and Cons: It’s common practice in many cultures such as in France or Italy to raise the hands slightly while talking as a way of punctuating a conversation, but in many cases raising the hands slightly is also done in the British/American/Australia cultures, for instance when these people finish talking, occasionally they lower their hands to let the other person speak. Sometimes when you’re discussing a topic with someone they will have a biased opinion on the subject, this can be observed by watching how they weight their hands with the opinion. If the person is right-handed, for example, the opinions and thoughts they value more or feel more positively inclined to will be spoken about while raising their right hand (if they are left handed then their left hand). On the other hand, when discussing the points they feel slightly negative about, they will raise their left hand while speaking.
- Head Support: When someone is using their hand to support their head, it’s a clear sign of boredom and an attempt to restrain themselves from falling asleep by finding a support point to rest their heads. There are different degrees of support which reflects a person’s different degree of boredom, it can begin with a simple thumb being used to support their head, followed by the fist or clenched hand, and in more extreme scenarios the whole hand can be used to wrap the face in a hand pedestal while resting the arm on a desk or armrest.
- Evaluating: Someone who is paying close attention to and is genuinely interested in what your saying will close their hand and rest it on their chin or cheek occasionally using their index finger to point upwards, if what your saying is something they feel negative towards or don’t agree with they will start resting their head on their thumb or their hands lower palm while still maintaining the index finger upwards and fist clenched to appear interested. Sometimes they may also use their index finger to rub their eye or scratch under their eye to reinforce their critical thoughts about what your saying.
- Thinking: When someone is making a decision or thinking about something, you will notice how they slowly raise their hands and start stroking their chin, they might also play with their beard if they have one or sometimes fiddle with their lips stretching them out or squashing them together. This can often be seen at the supermarkets when someone can’t decide whether they should buy the low-fat yogurt or risk buying it and venture into the unknown to purchase the new flavored full-fat yogurt that just came out.
- The Neck Rub: I remember at school they’d give me these huge projects or essays and as soon as I saw the size of what was required, I’d start rubbing my neck at the intimidating thought of what lay ahead. We have miniature erector pillae muscles on our necks that we refer to as goosebumps. You’ll notice that we experience this reaction frequently in hospital waiting rooms – it’s a primitive reaction caused by our bodies to make our now non-existent fur pelts stand up on end in order to make ourselves appear bigger against possible threats. The neck rub is a sign that reveals we feel intimidated, threatened, angry, frustrated or fearful…rubbing our hands on the back of our necks satisfies that tingly sensation by creating warmth.
- Fiddlers: Occasionally you will find someone who does subtle irrelevant gestures that don’t appear to be much, nor appear to be in context with the moment, but can have an important meaning. Popular fiddling variations used are fiddling with buttons, jewelry, pieces of paper or metal, playing with hair, even picking lint from clothing. Doing any of these fiddling actions while looking downwards or away can indicate the person is secretly hiding their opinion because they feel it will be perceived as negative if they share it.
- Finger Tapping: Finger tapping whether on tables, while holding a cup or on the remote control is always a sign of impatience or anxiety, it can commonly be found in the dentist waiting rooms, students waiting to take final exams, and so forth.
In this highly pressured society smoking is considered a sign of inner conflict of the emotionally repressed. Scientists have discovered that smoking has less to do with addiction to nicotine (explaining the poor success rate of patches in some) and more to do with the reassurance that sucking or putting it in their mouth provides. Scientist have also found that babies who were breastfed had smaller chances of becoming smokers as opposed to bottle-fed babies who make up the majority of heavy smokers (bottle-fed adults are around 4 times more likely), this is due to the comfort and bonding being breastfed provided while bottle-fed babies searched for that comfort elsewhere as adults. Bottle fed babies were also found to have more highly neurotic behavior, developing oral fixations later in life such as nail biting, pen chewing, and so forth.
Interestingly, women smokers tend to be more social smoking oriented, as they will use it as a way to appear open by holding the cigarette high in the air and bending their wrist backward to expose themselves. Exposing the wrists is a sign of attraction as it shows submissiveness by displaying the open palms and delicate wrists leaving the front of the body vulnerable. Men, on the other hand, keep their wrists stiff and straight to avoid looking effeminately queer and usually rest their smoking hand below chess level after taking a puff (as opposed to women who keep it above their breasts) in an attempt to protect the frontal part of the body at all times. Many men also smoke in a secretive way (as shown in the photo to the right) by holding the cigarette inside their palm using the thumb and index finger as opposed to outside of their palm with the index and the middle fingers. Also, you can tell a smoker’s inner emotions by observing the direction into which they blow their smoke, assuming its a neutral environment and they’re not blowing downwards to hide the smoke or upwards to not disturb anyone – when smoke is blown upwards it is a sign of positivity, superiority or confidence. When smoke is blown downwards however, this is a sign of negativity, secrecy or suspicious behavior, the easiest way to notice this is with cigar smokers, usually cigars are smoked on special occasions to celebrate births, victories or birthdays so everyone will be in a positive mood and blow upwards. The speed in which the smoke is exhaled is also believed to be connected with the intensity of the feeling, if they blow fast upwards it indicates they feel very positive and vice versa.