Actors are all too familiar with the what-do-I-do-with-my-hands panic. You’re standing on stage and are all of a sudden become very aware of your arms and hands and can’t find a way of positioning them in a way which feels natural.
Time and time again I hear trainee doctors speak of the same panic. I hear “I’m going to do this role-play sat on my hands because I wave them about too much” – they think they gesture in an overly extravagant way and just want to feel “normal”.
At times like these I quote what I call “The Dirty Dancing Rule of Gestures”.
The Dirty Dancing Rule if Gestures tells us that we have our own “Gesture space” this is the personal space around us that can be considered “ours”. We can gesture inside our own gesture space freely because the space belongs to us, but, if we start to gesture outside of this space then we are giving “Spegeti Gestures” and people start to think we are somewhat peculiar.
Gestures are a viral part of communication. Only 7%
of what we communicate involves actual words so to do away with body language including gestures is putting yourself at a massive disadvantage.
How strange would it be to talk to someone who is completely inanimate? It would just be unnatural, the complete opposite of the feeling of “normal” that these doctors want to achieve. Think of a situation where you want to show you understand where someones pain is, you can point to the same place on your own body for example. You can see that gesturing is a vital part of any consultation or even any discussion between two people.
So when in doubt, remember The Dirty Dancing Rule of Gestures and relax. Be yourself and use your Gesture Space to your advantage.