Gestures Are Powerful Communication

The Danger of Talking Hands

Non-verbal communication is the transmission of messages or signals through a non-verbal platform such as eye contact, facial expression, gestures, postures and the distance between individuals. Gestures, of course, are the most misleading way of non-verbal communication since there are enormous cultural differences in the meaning of certain gestures.

Let’s have a look at the different meanings of the most ambiguous gestures that might get you in trouble!

Thumb up 👍

  • US: good, well done, great, fine
  • Europe: agreement, approval
  • Parts of West Africa/in Arab States: an offensive gesture
  • Thailand: condemnation, a child’s gesture like sticking out your tongue

Circle with thumb and index finger 👌

  • US: OK
  • Germany/Austria: very good, agreement, compliance
  • France: zero-sign (you are a zero, you are worthless)
  • Turkey/Brazil/Venezuela: an insult (like the middle finger in many countries)
  • Japan: money

“V” sign with index finger and middle finger ✌

With the palm facing forward

  • US, Germany: victory, good, peace

With the palm facing backward

  • UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand: a serious insult (as offensive as middle finger)

A big “L” with thumb and index finger 👆

  • US: looser
  • China: the number 8

Open hand (5 fingers) 🖐

  • Europe: five
  • Greece: very rude, insulting gesture

Be careful if you find yourself in Greece and you are trying to order 5 of something with your open palm extended toward the receiver. This is a serious sign of displeasure also used in Mexico, the Middle East, and Africa.

Do emojis express really what we mean?

In times of reduced or fragmentary communication via social media and messengers, non- verbal exchange by means of emojis has led to a broader understanding that a gesture may not arrive at the receiver’s of a message like it was meant by the sender.

However, if you are not sure, better do without too many gestures in order not to be mistaken, or check it up in one of the numerous websites and platforms giving you helpful explanations.

North and south

This may be good advice for Middle or North European people – but who would dare telling Italians, for example, to give up their gesticulation? We would really miss the vitality and Mediterranean spirit in their lively way of communicating with their hands!

Consider the facial expression 🙂☹

Should a gesture used by your dialogue partner be confusing in the context he or she uses it, it may help you to consider his/her face. One’s accompanying facial expression usually mirrors best, whether a gesture has positive or negative meaning!

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