What should I do with my freakin hands?!?! - JOHANNA WALKER

What should I do with my freakin hands?!?!

What should I do with my freakin hands?!?!

heart in hands
Photo by Chang Duong

When I got rolling on my newsletter habit this spring, I made a list of questions people often ask me.

One question on the list was “What should I do with my hands?”

So I sat down to write the newsletter and wrote this whole intro about how people ask me that question all the time. Then I realized… wait a minute. Do they? Actually, not so much. My clients generally have bigger fish to fry, and aren’t really worrying about their hands.

But sometimes when I watch speakers, I put my coaches hat on and think maybe that should be a question they’re asking.

So…since you asked…. 🙂

Most of us are not terribly conscious about what we do with our hands & arms. Your hands just do what they need to do to get the job done. They cook and dig and hug and touch and write and type and clean and open car doors and carry groceries and hold babies and so much more.

But when you get up to speak, suddenly they become these long appendages just hanging from your shoulders, entirely cumbersome, in the way, over-busy or wanting to hide. You might become hyper aware of them and flail them about, or maybe you’d rather just leave them at home. All of a sudden they become something you have to figure out what to “do” with.

Your hands and arms are one of the key places where unconscious speaking habits set up shop–and disconnect you from your speaking power. 

So when the sudden light of awareness gets shined on these long and rather awkward appendages, your hands and arms fall into habitual patterns as a sort of safe landing pad. A comfy groove. Something you can put on auto-pilot while the rest of you faces the crowd.

There are the flailing hands
the fingertip-to-fingertip hands
the thigh slap
the jab the air repeatedly
the repetitive gesture
the pocket hide-out
the protecting-your-naval folded hands
the protecting-your-crotch folded hands

…to name a few.

If any of those patterns sound familiar–as in YOU DO THEM– you’re not alone. They’re just patterns, and like any pattern, they can be changed. With awareness and attention and practice, you can create new grooves so your hands, your arms AND YOUR TALK become fully integrated with your heart and your message.

​​Here are 5 ways to enliven and awaken your hands 

so you can access their full expressive power, and they can support your talk rather than distract from it.

1. Your hand is an extension of your heart. Your open hand is a direct through-line from your heart to your audience. Draw a line with your hand from your heart, down your arm to your other hand and back again. When you’re speaking, your audience gets connected to this line. Your hands actually serve as a way to let your audience into your heart.

2. Connect your spoken pauses to your gestural pauses. When your speech pauses, pause your gesture. When your gestures pause, pause your speech. This can help bring more awareness to the space you take when you speak, helping you slow down and bring mindfulness to your hands AND your speech.

3. Notice what you do with your hands off stage, when you’re talking to someone you care about, or telling a story, or sharing something you’re passionate about. Notice what your hands do when you’re not “speaking” and take note of what they do naturally. There’s probably a clue there to what to do with your hands when you are speaking.

4. If you notice a repetitive, habitual gesture, DON’T DO IT. When you’re practicing your talk, do one round of practice that is fully focussed on your gestures. If you catch something that you do in a repetitive way over and over again, bring your attention there and just DO SOMETHING ELSE. This will probably feel awkward at first, and is certainly easier said than done, but super important to muddle through the awkwardness in service of new patterns & pathways.

5. Do your homework. And come to the Speaker’s Playground! In other words, it takes practice. In order to create new pathways, you have to get uncomfortable for a while, and practice new pathways over and over again. But the pay-off is huge. (Here’s a link to the FREE CLASS I’ll be offering on July 31.)

Trust me on this. What you do with your hands can make a huge difference in helping you feel grounded, connecting you to your audience, conveying the power of your message, and communicating your care and passion for your message.

Stand up right now and open your arms wide, palms forward. Imagine your heart opening through your hands. Let yourself take up space. Breathe into your heart. Breathe into your hands. 

Now smile, and delight in knowing just what to do with your hands.

See you out there!

What should I do with my freakin hands?!?!

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