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These days with so many Zoom calls, most of us only see each other from the shoulders or neck up. And that has some interesting and unintended consequences for our ability to connect with one another. It turns out that the brain gives 12.5 times more weight to hand gestures than to verbal cues.

This stems back to humanity’s ancient days when we weren’t sure if someone approaching us could be deadly – we need to know if that person is friend-or-foe. Are they friendly, coming with open hands, or are they hiding a rock or knife in their hands?

This hand gesture finding is shared in the book Human Lie Detection and Body Language 101, by Vanessa Van Edwards, who also has a fascinating TED Talk about this. Edwards is a behavioral investigator and studied what made TED talks go viral. In her analysis, she learned that it was hand gestures that made the difference. The most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures in 18 minutes; the least popular used 272.

So, let’s get back to our Zoom meetings. To help send the message to the other people on the Zoom meeting that you are metaphorically a friend, and not carrying a spear or rock, consider a couple of these hand-motion ideas:

  • Wave to people when you join the call. Try using both hands as you wave.
  • When you are sharing an idea, consider an appropriate hand gesture. For example, if you want to say “two ideas are coming to mind as you say that” – lift your two fingers lightly.
  • When you want to convey empathy or something that’s true for you, put your hand on your chest.
  • To be inclusive, draw a circle with your fingers to show that others are welcome to contribute.

Check out this great article in Work and Money for more suggestions.

That’s all for now. Waving bye-bye!