Be Careful of What You Are Pointing At

Be Careful of What You Are Pointing At

by Barbara Chatzkel

Welcome to this month’s insight into business body language. It’s a place to get tips on what signals your body is sending and how to modify your body language to match your message.

The last two months were “field trips” into the everyday world to examine what business body language looks like in real life. Today we are going to return to the five broadcast centers of the body – face, legs and feet, arms, torso, and fingers and hands. The focus is on the hands and fingers – the final broadcast center.

Most people question that hands and fingers are the least important of the body broadcast centers. The order of importance is based on the “broadcast center” itself conveying the message. As we look, we’ll find that the hands and fingers support other parts of the body in sending the message. In most situations, you do not focus solely on the hands and fingers, but also the facial expression and the arms. Look at these two photos. The hands and fingers are basically doing the same thing, but the message is clearly different when you look at the faces and the arms. The woman on the left is clenching her fists in frustration, while the woman on the right is clenching her hands in victory. The distinction is clear.

clenching-your-fistSome tips on your hands and fingers:

You can point at an object or to indicate a direction, but NEVER point at a person. This gesture is immediately viewed as offensive or aggressive. The man pointing in the white shirt below may be giving directions or pointing at a person. Note, however, that his pointing finger and arm are relaxed, so the messaging is probably informational. The pointing by former Governor Brewer (AZ) is clearly directed at the individual, who happens to be the President of the United States. It is clear that she is “telling him something” and does not want to be interrupted.

finger pointingDo you remember having the finger pointed at you as a child? What was your reaction? That reaction will be more intense in an adult. “Remember, when you point at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.” Anonymous

The one exception to the finger pointing directly to a person is the “I Want You for the US i want youArmy” poster. What is the message being sent? Does the pointing make it more personal?

Next month we will conclude our discussion on hands and fingers. There are some “new” gestures in the business environment, and we’ll look at them.

fist bumpHave an enjoyable month and remember to periodically check to see that your body language actually mirrors the message you want to send.


  1. Over the next month observe how people use their hands and fingers in a business setting. Is it evident if a person is not happy? What are the key clues for you?
  2. During the month, focus on how your hands and fingers amplify your message. They also can distract from a message. Think about the message your hands and fingers are sending. Is it the message you want people to receive?

Barbara Chatzkel’s ability to provide a vibrant and behavior-changing book extends Chatzkelacross industry segments – everyone uses business body language. Her coaching and consulting expertise on business body language grew from conducting union negotiations, managing difficult personnel situations, managing at multiple levels, and extensive business coaching experience. Her new book,
Business Body Language: Your Visual Business Card, will be available in print in early 2016. Visit her website today for further information.

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1 Response to Be Careful of What You Are Pointing At

  1. excellent photos to illustrate your point!


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