Gestures – non verbal communication – what are you really saying about yourself…

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Unlike postures, gestures are generally confined to a specific part of the body and are relatively quick motions meant to emphasize a certain point or to reinforce or de-intensify the perceived strength of emotions.

A typical example of an “Illustrator” gesture would be hand motions while giving direction, pounding on your desk, or shaking a fist. A hand or finger in a baton-like motion to emphasize or accent particular words or phrases during a conversation is another example.

Even though illustrators are used with your conscious awareness they can still convey subconscious information about mood, self-confidence, and power. A decrease in the use of illustrators during communication can indicate waning interest, non-dominance, a decrease in self-confidence, or an indication of deception.

On the other hand “Adaptors” are gestures that are done almost subconsciously as a reflex action. A typical example is nervously scratching your face. Adaptors communicate a great deal about an individual’s attitudes, anxiety level, comfort/discomfort, and self-confidence level. Since communicators who exhibit adaptors aren’t using them with the intent to communicate, they’re usually unaware that they’re using them. As a result, adaptors are an important source of involuntary information about the psychological states of individuals who exhibit them. It’s important to be familiar with these signals, become aware of your usage of them, and begin eliminating them. Let’s look at the two types of adaptors and the signals they convey:

  • Self-Adaptor: A self-adaptor is a gesture that involves the hands to another part of the body and provides reliable information about the current level of self-confidence and self-esteem. A common example of a self-adaptor is any gesture that involves the hand-to-face. Gestures, such as covering the mouth, decrease both the beta and alpha-signals because they signal insecurity about what is being said (or about to be said) and indicate possible deception. Other self-adaptors include: picking or scratching, rubbing or massaging (typically the forehead or neck regions), covering the eyes, or the combing of the fingers through hair.
  • Object-adaptors: The object-adaptors involve the use of the hands to touch, hold, or manipulate an object in the immediate environment. Object adaptors, while not as indicative of the psychological state of the person exhibiting them, do often reflect uncertainty. During police questioning, suspects frequently play with objects close to them at the moment of deception.

Let’s talk about “touching”. Now before you get too excited, let me clarify myself. I’m talking about a gesture that involves contact with another person. Like self-adaptors and object-adaptors, touch can communicate a great deal about a person’s psychological state. Unlike other gestures, however, touch is much more conscious and controlled and is an important means of communicating when up close.

Touching is one of the most powerful means for establishing and maintaining social contact because it effectively communicates caring, comfort, affection, and reassurance.

It also serves a major role in communicating power.

In touching exchanges between men and women, men typically touch women more frequently than women touch men.

But among same sex, touching among men tends to increase the level of discomfort and anxiety. High status individuals are more likely to touch and initiate touch with lower status individuals. This is viewed as a signal of exercising dominance. Therefore, touching is seen as a reliable indicator of status.

So here are some “Gesturing” tips to being an Alpha.

  • Avoid using any adaptors – especially touching your face or playing with objects.
  • Make sure your gestures are very controlled and deliberate.
  • Always initiate the touch (a handshake for example).
  • Simultaneously touch two areas to establish dominance. An example of this would be shaking his right hand while grasping his shoulder with the left.

Also, touching outside of the normal regions can show dominance over a lower status individual. A pat on the back to show approval is acceptable and clearly demonstrates dominance. A pat on the head, however, would appear very condescending, and would most likely be challenged. And well… a pat on the rear-end means you’re likely on very thin ice.


The fourth channel of nonverbal signals is sound, or “vocalic communication”. Simply put, sounds convey meaning. Aside from facial gestures, the voice is the most powerful channel for transmitting the emotional state of the communicator. Perceived personality characteristics and social class are also revealed through the various attributes and characteristics of the voice. The voice can be very effective in shaping whether the speaker is introverted, extroverted, likeable, dominant or submissive.

Here are some “Sound” tips to being an Alpha:

  • Speak with a loud, strong voice.
  • Pace yourself at a moderately fast rate with full resonance.
  • Articulation and correct pronunciation are very important for effectively portraying status.
  • Dominance can be displayed in crisp and clear speech, as though you were issuing commands.
  • Avoid “non-fluencies” words such as “umm,” “like,” or “you know” used between sentences or weak expressions such as, “I guess,” or “ok”. These dramatically decrease your alpha-level presence. Vocal cues of confidence are vitally important.
  • Throat clearing and nervous coughing are perceived as non-Alpha traits.

Let’s move onto when (and how) it’s possible to “cool down” a situation before it escalates into physical violence – that’s next time on

Hertfordshire Personal Safety is an initiative of Tring Martial Arts, our reality based self defence classes deal with real world threats, attacks and how to counter or defend them, see our website for more information or call 0845 094 8805 now for your free trial class.

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