Apparently, there’s a jewelry designer in New Jersey who is so self-conscious that she’s created a line of jewelry in order to answer the age-old question that speakers have asked for as long as there have been speakers, what should I do with my hands?
I’m making the risky assumption that this article is not a joke. But even if it is, the whole idea raises that interesting question and suggests, to me at least, a better way to deal with the problem than weird-looking instruments of torture that enforce certain postures and hand gestures.
Here’s the thing. We gesture our intent – our emotional state. In fact, we gesture before we’re consciously aware. Gestures are our unconscious mind speaking to us and to the people around us. We think it works the other way – that we’re logical beings who consciously tell our bodies what to do – but in fact the brain research shows that the way it works is like this:
Unconscious thought + gesture + conscious thought.
Suppressed emotion comes out in the jiggling of the leg, for example, that one of these pieces of jewelry is designed to stop. The unconscious mind says something like, I’m nervous, or over-caffeinated, or bored out of my (primeval) mind – get me out of here. And so the body starts expressing that feeling: jiggle, jiggle, jiggle.
Only after that might the conscious mind realize that something’s afoot and take steps to change the situation.
This line of reasoning suggests that a better way of controlling your own behavior, and having it express, at least in public, what you want it to express, is to focus your emotions. Get clear about those, and your gestures will clearly express how you feel.
Wait, you say, I can’t control my emotions. If I get bored, what can I do about that? The answer is to be more intentional about what you’re doing. If you go into a social situation, decide that you’re doing it because you have a chance to meet someone new, and that’s worth the effort. Or, if you’re headed into a meeting, decide what you want to get out of it, and get excited about that desired outcome. Then work to make it happen. Or, if you’re going to give a speech, decide beforehand that you’re thrilled to have the opportunity to present to this great group of people. And so on. Think first about what the purpose of the interaction is, what you want to get out of it, and what your attitude toward it is.
If you focus your emotions in this way, your gestures will take care of themselves. And you won’t need weird jewelry to keep your hands in the right place.
* Photo published with kind permission from Jennifer Crupi.