Monday, July 30, 2012

Power Gesture

The attorney could also have used the gesture popularized in pop culture as talk to the hand. However, it is wise to start with small nonverbal management of another’s behaviour and increase as needed. Talk to the hand is definitive power gesture. In most Western cultures, it plainly states stop. Use it wisely and only when the situation truly calls for it.

Using a power gesture can ramp up emotions. Therefore, before you do so, consider the amount of influence and/or power you may need to gain compliance. If you choose to use power gestures, the slower the speed of the gesture and the greater the bend of the elbow, the less aggressive the gesture appears. To produce the talk-to-the-hand sign, move your arm closest to the heckler straight out from your shoulder, ending at a predetermined bend in the elbow. At the same time the arm is moving parallel to the ground, the wrist bends 90 degrees up exposing the open palm with fingertips extended. Hold that position only until the offender complies. The longer you hold it, the greater the chance of damaging not only your message but also your reputation. Consider the amount of power needed to stop the behaviour immediately, and if it’s worth the collateral damage.

Collateral damage can come in several forms: the emotional upset of other group members or the destruction of your reputation or relationship within the group. Often when the leader resorts to power, others interpret it as just as offensive as the bad behaviour the leader was trying to fix. The other members of the group will have one of two responses, “Thank goodness, finally somebody did something!” or “Whoa, if the speaker did that to him, would she do it to me?”

Depending on the group’s culture, a speaker can actually spilt herself off from the group and encourage them to protect the heckler from the speaker’s aggressive gesture or action. The opposite can also be true. Another group might applaud the speaker for taking action to stop the annoying person. The attorney could have requested that the heckler leave. She may have even raised her status within the eyes of the rest of the group if she had made the request while breathing low. It’s vital to know the most likely response and meaning of your gestures with the given group and context before gestures that assign negatives, or that can be seen as power gestures.

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