TODAY   |  July 03, 2013

Hand-talking: How gestures help us communicate

Hand gestures have become part of the way we express ourselves, enabling us to say a lot without speaking at all. TODAY’s Jenna Wolfe explores why and how we use our hands to communicate.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now to more of our special series mind your mannerisms. we tackled brs on tuesday and this morning we're highlighting the aggressive hand talker. we turn to jenna wolf with more. good morning to you.

>> thank you. i appreciate it. all right. do this for me. try talking without -- i can't do it -- try talking without using your hands at all. none of this, none of this, none of this certainly. it's harder than you think and that's because we have grown so accustomed to using gestures to get our point across. it's not just me and savannah. some of our best public speakers do it. presidents do it. making a point by using a point. let's give a round of applause for, well, for hands. where would we be without them? research shows that audiences are drawn to people who use a wide variety of hand gestures .

>> we have learned that the great leaders tend to use the ones more powerful and dominant.

>> reporter: that explains the presidential gestures. there's those that work with their hands and those that work a room with their hands.

>> i had to push myself academically for my family's sake.

>> reporter: new york based comedian is a regular at caroline's comedy club . he is also a regular hand talker.

>> is that a thing comedians do? that's what you're known for, isn't it?

>> reporter: i talk with my hands a lot. i'm not doing this on purpose. i can't start doing this because i'm warm here and i'm fanning myself off and you're so beautiful. i'm italian and everyone is talking with their hands for no reasons. family parties i'm getting slapped and hit in the face because they're emotional and comedy i think, you know, we want to draw our audience in.

>> it turns out you can say a lot without saying anything at all. tonya is a body language expert.

>> why do we use hand gestures at all.

>> they not only help us to think and put our words on paper or put our words out into the public but they also help the listener.

>> bottom line, we all use gestures, at least a little, why? turns out it has a lot more to do with what's up here than what's right here.

>> so if you break this down just a little bit further, studies have found that people who communicate through active gesturing are seen as warm, agreeable and energetic and those that remain still, logical, cold and analytical. analyze that.

>> we will actually. let's bring in janine driver. she is the author of can't lie to me.

>> good morning.

>> you have aggressive hand talkers on this couch. what does it say about you?

>> you're seen as likable but the big deal is keep it in the frame of your body. the bigger the audience, the bigger your gestures can be. it's as if you're talking to one person at home. you don't want crazy gestures here. you're seen as out of control. keep it within the shoulders area. the higher the gestures the more out of control you look.

>> if i knock natalie out, that's probably bad.

>> out of control.

>> you can either welcome someone into a conversation or exclude them from a conversation based on your hand gestures alone.

>> this is great. like you're holding an invisible basketball. we see politicians do this and leaders do this. columbo used to do this. i got to ask you one more question. you would throw him in jail and you would write minimum a postcard saying thank you for throwing me in jail. it's likeability.

>> can you analyze, willie and natalie . we have a clip of them yesterday on the show.

>> and you.

>> here we are.

>> here's us yesterday.

>> what are you seeing here.

>> so you're -- natalie is playing with with her hair a little bit but you're within the frame of your body. you're doing a great job.

>> that's likable. now gesture like this. look at the person next to you and say love your hair style .

>> you're saying you need a hair improvement.

>> or this, you don't want to see this too, right?

>> what about air quotes .

>> air quotes is one of the top five most irritating gestures including this one.

>> talk with the hand.

>> tell me about it.

>> so these are irritating and the talk to the hand . within the top five. this goes back to italy back to the 14th century we can see roman sculptures with hand gestures .

>> savannah tried to get out of it but let's look at her video yesterday and analyze the guthrie gestures. what are you seeing.

>> she is doing a palm up gesture. this is what's called the beggars pose. a dollar please, a dollar.

>> oh.

>> give me information she is saying.

>> thank you. back after your local news.