“What do I do with my hands when I speak?”

I was having an important conversation with my daughter this week when I became very aware that I was not connecting at all with her.  We were standing by a car and I couldn’t find a relaxed, comfortable position.  So instead of really listening to what she was saying, I was focused on where I should put my arms and how I should stand to be comfortable.  In doing so, I felt separate from her and removed from the conversation.

So often when I’m coaching people to be more comfortable when they speaking, they ask me, “what should I do with my hands?”.  Interesting that this is such a universal concern!  My response is that we can’t choreograph our movements ahead of time and that the most natural neutral stance is with our arms down by our side allowing natural gestures to arise in the moment, while also eliminating distracting, unconscious, repetitive movements.

But focusing on our arms and hands will increase our self-consciousness which, in turn, leads to feeling less confident.  It’s really superfluous and not central to what we want to accomplish.  Instead, we need to bring our attention back to our core, our center – to be conscious of self as opposed to self-conscious – and to speak from there.

So instead of thinking about what do to with your hands, try these three levels of awareness:

(c)Copyright: Carla Kimball, 2009

  1. Feel your feet solidly on the ground.  Find your roots.
  2. From that grounded place bring your awareness to your belly, your core, to center yourself.
  3. Then become aware of your back body, your spine, as you bring your attention to your audience.  This will open you up to an expanded sense of the space around you,your place in it, and the people in your audience.

As you speak, your arms and hands then become like branches in a tree.  They are still when there’s no breeze and move gently when the currents of the air (or the subject matter) move them.

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