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Are Hand Gestures Considered Aggressive?

Are Hand Gestures Considered Aggressive?

Is Using Hand Gestures Considered Aggressive?

Definition. Hand gestures are a form of non-verbal communication. Some are considered aggressive.

There are three kinds of hand gestures.

  1. Aggressive.
  2. Ambiguous.
  3. Non-aggressive, conciliatory gestures.

Let us look at each in turn.

1. Aggressive hand gestures.

There are many hand gestures that are universally considered aggressive. The three most common are:

Finger point. If the first digit is used to point at the other person, then that is a threat signal and perceived as aggressive.

Clenched Fist. If a fist is clenched, and held up, then that is a very strong threat signal and is overtly aggressive.

Middle finger. If the middle finger is held up, then that is an obscene gesture and is insulting and aggressive.

2. Ambiguous: Gestures that may or may NOT be considered aggressive.

There are many gestures that may be considered by some to be aggressive and others not. These include:

1. Waving arms around as you talk, to emphasise emotions.

To some cultures, such as the Italian culture, arm gesticulations are common and accepted. But to a typical English listener, the same gesticulations may be considered excessive and even aggressive.

2. Flat hand, karate chop gesture.

In order to emphasise points, some speakers use an open-handed chopping gesture. This may be considered to be assertive and strong by some, and an aggressive gesture by others. It depends on the full context and the psychology of the person witnessing the gesture.

3. The thumb-forefinger ring gesture.

In some cultures, the gesture signifies "Perfect!". But the same gesture, in other cultures is considered obscene, insulting and aggressive.

4. Folded arms, across the chest.

Some people consider this gesture to be a sign of self-confidence, or of relaxation, or of aggression. The exact meaning of crossed arms depends on what is being said, and to whom.

Non-aggressive, conciliatory gestures.

Many gestures are the diametric opposite of aggression; they are conciliatory and pacifying. They include:

Single open hand down - This gesture implies the message, "Please calm down".

Two open hands up - Holding two open hands up, implies the message, "Please back off". It is used if the other person is perceived as being aggressive.

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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