Why Your Gestures Are More Important Than Your Words

A recent Harvard Business Review article in May 2019 described a research that showed that when you’re selling an idea, selling a proposal or pitching an idea, your gestures matter more than the words. This means that when we’re talking to people, trying to persuade them, our gestures are more important than the words.

This result is similar to Stanford University research a few years ago where they compared people telling a truthful message with congruent nonverbal communication to one group and then telling the same message with non congruent nonverbal communication to another group. The group believed the speaker when his body language was congruent. The second group did not believe the speaker when his body language was not congruent.

What this means is that gestures are really important when speaking.

In my view, the reason that your nonverbal communication is so important is because:

  • it helps to demonstrate your passion for your message
  • it helps to show your authenticity, your honesty in relation to what you’re saying
  • it helps portray congruence and alignment with your message
  • it helps people to see that you walk the talk
  • it helps display your confidence and credibility in what you’re saying

The Harvard research also found that too much gesturing could be off-putting or could be detrimental to your message. There are those repetitive gestures, those bouncy gestures or those over-the-top gestures that distract us as listeners, as audiences. Too much gesturing is visual noise and distracts the listener.

So my question to you as speakers trainers, facilitators and leaders is this. What are your gestures saying about you? What does your nonverbal communication say about you when you walk in the room, when you walk on the platform or when go to that important meeting?

The challenge for us as leaders, speakers, trainers and facilitators is to know what our gestures and our nonverbal communication is saying about us and ensure we have congruent, positive and authentic gestures. Poor nonverbal communication, poor gestures can detract and reduce our ability to get our message across.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Art and Science of Nonverbal Communication, this is one of the corporate workshops I run for leaders, managers and supervisors. The workshop will help you to upskill and ensure that your nonverbal communication and your gestures add to and enhance your message, not detract or dilute from your message.

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