There is much focus on our hands at present as we are constantly reminded of what we should do with them and what we should not do:
- Don’t shake hands
- Wash them thoroughly
- Don’t touch our faces
- Use our knuckles to press buttons
- Use our elbows to greet one another
Importance of Gestures
Our hands are much more powerful than we realise. Rather than focusing on what we cannot do with them, let’s think about what other functions our hands perform. I am referring to gestures or what I like to call gentle gesticulation. Our hands are one of the most important parts of the body used in communication. Let’s use them effectively!
Have you noticed the deaf interpreters on television using their hands to communicate emergency news bulletins? Their hands are working harder than anyone else’s at present. For the deaf community, they are providing an essential service by using sign language to translate important information.
Using sign language is creative, expressive and challenging but it is also rewarding especially if it means breaking down barriers to communicate with those who cannot hear.
One in six people will have a degree of hearing loss at some point in their life. Deafness is a hidden disability which results in a fragmented community whether through obstacles like accessibility or general perception issues.
Looking for a Sign
If you would like to learn sign language, there are apps or many sites on the internet you can use: Australian sign language http://www.auslan.org.au/ British sign https://www.signbsl.com/ New Zealand sign https://www.nzsl.nz/.
There are sign language alphabets from around the world https://blog.ai-media.tv/blog/sign-language-alphabets-from-around-the-world. You can learn to finger spell and there are also special signs for babies and toddlers to learn. https://www.australianbabyhands.com/.
A substantial portion of our total communication is nonverbal. Every day we respond to thousands of nonverbal cues in our body language including postures, facial expressions, eye gazes and gestures.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, when you interact with others, you are continuously giving and receiving wordless signals. The gestures you use send out strong messages. They can put people at ease, build trust, and draw others towards you,
You may be surprised to find that you already know some iconic signs which you can use in any country and people will be able to understand. Try communicating with your hands and see how you can breakdown barriers.
- Want something to eat or drink? – make your hand into a cup shape, tilt it near your mouth
- Needing a toilet? – grab your abdomen or cross your legs
- Feeling tired – place flat hands together against the side of your face
- Can’t understand? – twirl your hands in the air and shake your head
- Lost your way? – extend your arms and wave from side-to-side
- Show all is well – thumbs up sign of goodwill
- Not so good? – use the thumbs down sign
- Declaring Peace? – two finger V sign
But the most important unspoken universal gesture you can send out to the world is LOVE.
When I was in India I wrote, “Although we spoke English and they spoke Hindi, we connected in that wonderful way that breaks down barriers, using the warmth of our eyes and the depths of our souls.” Chasing Marigolds.
Using Our Hands
Instead of bumping elbows, a more intimate gesture to practise is namaste. You can use it while social distancing. You just need to bring your palms together at your chest in a gesture of goodwill. Add a gentle bow, a smile and one can connect with complete strangers on the other side of the street. When they return the greeting, it completes the circle of communication.
In WA we are encouraged to use the “West Australian Wave” by acknowledging gratitude if another car lets you into a lane or a driver allows a pedestrian to cross.
Let’s also add namaste to these delightful non-verbal exchanges. Without dialogue or close physical proximity we can all feel connected by using the ancient custom of gentle gesticulation.