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The Coffee Run: Gesturing your way to the top

January 26, 2011

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If you’ve ever watched a mafia film of any kind, you’re already aware that power, influence and emphatic hand gesturing are closely related. Science has proven that people who motion with their hands while talking business are four times more likely to be promoted in their first two years, three times more likely to lease a submarine and six times more likely to have one or more exotic concubines on payroll. (I don’t feel the need to back this up with a citation.)

If you want a piece of that action, you need to grab it. Or, if you’d like, you can swipe, slash, clutch, cup or push it.

Here are some of the most bosslike hand motions you’re likely to encounter in the American conference room, and how they can touch your career.

The Dueling Dogs: This thumbs-up, palms-in gesture was a favorite of former President George W. Bush. It’s often used to communicate “We’re talking about evil here,' but depending on how close the hands are placed to the body,it can also mean “It’s not my job to memorize stuff' or “She had to cover her breasts.' It should be a staple of your defensive arsenal.

The Sunburst: A close relative to the Dueling Dogs, the Sunburst expresses surprise by widely separating all fingers. Former President Clinton used it to great effect whenever he was asked about interns, but you can use it as an intern when told your parking spot was supposed to be reserved for the CFO

The Simmer Down: Sometimes, the only way to drive through an unpopular idea is with a flat, firm forward extension of both hands. Without this move, taxes would have been extinct by 1803.

The Seedling: This move is unique and versatile, in that it’s the only compassionate gesture that requires just one arm. The peeking thumb should germinate as your speech evolves, especially if you’re facing the sun. Whenever you speak about the future, you must also remember to plant the seed.

The Smoking Guns: Please do not use this in a professional context, unless you’re Silvio Berlusconi.

The Last Supper: This downward, open-palmed standard is a classic way to illustrate that you’re providing for the people, but it can come off as a little paternal and overbearing in an office setting. Plus, it’s not exactly something that an intern can get away with. A hipper alternative is …

The Open Talons: Press your pointer and middle finger together and think of them as a miniature open arm. Your thumbs are the swivels. There’s a fine line between this move and the Smoking Guns, so please take care not to blow on it.

The Darth Vader: Use this to choke someone from afar with The Force. But only during teleconferences when management isn’t around.

The Cheek Grab: If someone has greatly disappointed you (and you are extremely Sicilian), you can follow this up with two slaps and the toss of a handkerchief.

The Timeout: Most interns don’t realize that they’re allotted three timeouts before 1 p.m. and three in the afternoon, unless they lose them in a challenge. (Timeouts cannot be used in the final two minutes of a presentation.)

Which of these gestures is your favorite … or do you have a secret weapon? I’m handing it over to you .

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

David February 2, 2011 at 3:10 pm

cool page about how to use gestures in different situations!

I would just like to see a few more pictures and other examples of gestures, are there links to other gestures page?

I was confused about as to the second picture if it was referring to the sunburst or simmer down, and would like an example of both. Those both seem very useful in real life.

Reply February 2, 2011 at 4:40 pm


The Sunburst you’re referring to is a “palms-in” move. The Simmer Down is what’s pictured.

— R. Wesselberger


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