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What the Most Common Hand Gestures Mean

Antonia R.Antonia R.

A person cannot control their facial expressions and gestures, yet it is they that give away their thoughts and feelings. In his book Body Language, Australian author Allan Pease teaches us how to find out what a person is thinking about when they keep quiet.

Hand gestures can serve as an accurate guide to a given person's intentions, even if they try to hide them or to fool you.

For example, rubbing both palms together is an indication of positive expectations. Often they express a person's impatience when they expect something good to happen to them.

Rubbing both palms together is most often seen at gambling places. But even at a restaurant we can see a waiter rub their hands after he has given you the bill. This is a non-verbal way of them showing that they hope to receive a nice tip.


Rubbing a thumb into your other fingers is a universal sign revealing the expectation of money. Often it is used by people who intend to ask you for a loan.

Interlacing one's fingers together is a signal for hopelessness and desperation. It is used by persons experiencing negative emotions or going through a great life drama.

When a person holds their hands behind their back, they mean to express their authority in society. This gesture is frequently used by members of the British royal family, police officers and teachers.

Holding one's hands behind their back shows self-confidence and superiority. If, however, one hand is holding the other by the wrist instead of by the elbow, this signifies weakness. Usually, people in a subordinate position make this gesture in front of their boss in an attempt to maintain their self-control.

Palms squeezed tightly together are a sign of high self-esteem and confidence.

Arms crossed at one's chest are a very clear indication of hostility and a defensive stance. People who gesticulate in this way want to protect themselves in a situation they see as unfavorable.

Another defensive posture is considered grabbing your hands by the wrists in front of you.

However, if a person with their arms crossed has their thumbs pointing out instead of curled, it means they wish to display self-assurance. This gesture is often used by confident and ambitious people when meeting higher ups.

When one arm is left to hang and the other is holding its elbow, this gesture shows a lack of confidence, low self-esteem and a desire to go unnoticed. In contrast, excessively dramatic hand gesturing indicates impulsive personalities that explode easily.

People who place their hands at the hips are open to new things and are ready to hear you out. Hands in one's pockets reveal an unwillingness to act and laziness.