While I’ve often talked about the importance of being aware of your posture at the table, I am giving hand placement its own section in order to emphasize its importance in signaling your intentions to others.
As we all know, “Hands up!” is among the first things a police officer says when he has a criminal in range. In that instance, the police officer’s goal is to ensure he or she doesn’t have a concealed weapon.
More happily, raising our hand is also the symbol of knowing the correct answer in grade school, or signaling our willingness to volunteer for activities as we get older. When you are seated at a table, your hands perform much the same function. They allow others at the table to feel safe around you, and they signal to others that you are available and excited to answer their questions, or volunteer for their cause.
“But,” some clients object, “I tend to talk with my hands if they’re on the table. Isn’t that bad?”
Not at all if those motions are a natural outgrowth of what you are saying. They only become distracting when they are doing something to relieve you of nervous tension, such as tapping a pencil or fiddling with a wedding ring, etc.
So if your goal is to inspire trust in others, one of the easiest ways to do that is to keep your hands where people can see them. Once they’re on the table, my request is that they remain unclasped, as clasping your hands in front of you creates a barrier between you and those to whom you are speaking.
The same principle holds true if you are standing. When you want others to trust you, keep your hands out of your pockets. Leaving them in sight will signal your honorable, or favorable, intentions. Alternatively, putting your hands in your pockets will send a message of distrust or unavailability—not to mention ruin the line of your suit.