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Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness
Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness

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5 Gestures

Gestures, as you have just seen in the TED talk example in Activity 4, are actions made with the head or the hands.

Described image
Figure 3 Heads, hands and eyes can convey a great deal.

Activity 5 What do your head or hands say?

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Observe a number of face-to-face conversations between two people without being overly intrusive. Considering the shifting roles of speaker and listener, who mainly uses head gestures and who mainly uses hand gestures?


Hand gestures are normally reserved for the speaker. The listener is normally restricted to a head gesture, such as nodding, which is important since it is able to signal to the speaker that the listener is understanding what is being said. Nodding is a sign of active listening, and it provides encouragement to the speaker and is important for the success of an interaction.

The topic of hand gestures is too large to discuss here. However, we can say that they can be either helpful for emphasis or, in contrast, overused and a distraction. Sometimes – as in the case of pointing at someone – they can even be seen as overbearing.