Mar 01

Body Language, Gestures, Hand Signals and Sign Language.

Understanding non-verbal communication is an important part of improving your overall communication skills. Some of my long term students have read the Mind Tools article about Body Language to help them become more effective communicators in the business world. Both of the previous links are valuable resources that should be referred to often.

The language used by deaf people or those with a hearing impairment is called sign language. There are different forms of sign language, but in the U.S. you will most often come across American Sign Language. The website has a lot of good information. Contact or Pidgin Sign Language is a derivative of American Sign Language. And you can go here for information about all 3 of the most common styles of sign language used in North America.

The chart below shows what is called “finger spelling”. That link from Wiki-how can help you to learn the alphabet with the finger positions used in American sign.

In addition to the many ways we reinforce our manner of communication there are also specific ways for people involved in specialized activities to “speak” without vocalizing a single word;

For young mothers and others involved with teaching children “baby sign language” can help your child to communicate before spoken language is developed . This link will give you some basics to teach your baby.

For young children hand gestures can help them to develop better communications skills as they grow. Here is a link explaining the science of hand gestures and how it works for kids.


Common gestures are one way of communicating with people and this link talks about many common gestures from around the world.

From Wikipedia a more complete list of world-wide sign languages.


The symphony conductor must communicate to the many different musicians in an orchestra and this link will explain what the maestro is saying with his hands or baton.

First-responders like EMT and firefighters have training in communication skills to maintain calm in a crisis situation. Nurses are also trained in communications skills in order to project confidence and control in a medical emergency. Also remember the information about the Heimlich Maneuver and the international sign of choking.

For scuba divers there are important hand signals to communicate while under water.

For bicyclists there are very important hand signals to help keep you safe on the road. These hand signals allow other drivers to know what you are going to do. And this link is for motorcycles.

For people in the construction industry and police officers there are hand gestures for directing traffic.

These – Hand Signals for field-craft and tactical movements with a team can be a language all on their own.

There are so many ways in which people communicate using hand gestures and body language. Perhaps this post will help you to learn some of them.


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    • May on March 5, 2017 at 8:13 pm
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    Thanks for the information shared in this post, Kevin.
    Baby sign language really piqued my interests. My little girl is nearly 8 months now and she just learned how to show welcome through clapping her little fatty hands. Haha, congratulations.
    It’s so exciting to see her growing up everyday.

    1. Happy to know the information about baby sign language was useful for you. From my reading I learned that teaching children about gestures and sign language can be helpful for development of their communication skills.
      Babies at 8 months are very much fun, but keep in mind that before your know it, she will be asking to borrow your car keys to go out on a date!

    • Allen on March 6, 2017 at 8:52 pm
    • Reply

    This post is interesting! I have learned different categories of body language and their respective application. Some are very practical to me, like the international sign of choking and common gestures. Body language is an important supplement to the spoken language, and I think we all need to learn some to enable us to better communicate with the world. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Great, Allen!
      I always receive satisfaction when a student informs me that a particular article was useful. The many links within this article offer new and creative ways for communicating and I am glad to know you have studied some in more detail.

    • Judy Zhao on March 8, 2017 at 9:00 am
    • Reply

    I must say: you are always a profound teacher, Kevin. This post is very useful and helpful for me. I always learn many new things from you. Thank you, my Great Master!

    1. I am deeply appreciative of your kind comment, Judy. It is my greatest joy to know that you are gaining useful knowledge through this blog. I am also humbled to read your praise, but I can be “master” of no one other than myself.

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