Hand signals offer a nonverbal communication, that can take place at the same time as verbal communication without disturbing the latter. Everyone who’s not talking at the moment can express their opinions and needs or can moderate the talk. Hand signals therefore facilitate communication in bigger groups, sensible process and prevents disturbances. They’re also useful for moderation, because they show the mood of the group and because the whole group can moderate in the background.
But we don’t just find them useful, but also protective. Many people don’t like to talk in front of groups. If you’re also potentially confronted with boos and jeers or bored yawns, is much less likely to dare to rise to speak. By the use of exactly these hand signals in exactly this meaning we want to contribute to a respectful and considerate interaction with each other.
Many of us already know this kind of nonverbal communication. In order not to lead to confusion and misunderstandings we want to use the same hand signals with the same meanings.
The following hand signals have been developed by others and ourselves. We’ve used them in real live and found them quite helpful:
If someone has a Direct Reply the will be the next in line to talk, so that a question can be answered directly. This hand signal shall not be misused to give your own statement or proposal for solution. It’s supposed to only give room to give the group an important informatioin or speed up the process by giving a short information.
With this hand signal you can show your agreement to an opinion or statement without having to interrupt the talking person, repeat what was said before or tell everyone verbally that you agree. This way the group as well as the moderation constantly get feedback. We also need fewer time, because not everyone who has the same idea or solution proposal has to speak out loudly. Note: This is only feedback! Even if a lot of people or seemingly everyone’s waving their hands does not mean that we’ve found a consensus. A consensus has to be verbally (or in writing) confirmed by everyone!
This hand signal shows disagreement towards an idea or solution for proposal. Like with the above you don’t need to speak up to give your opinion and group as well as moderation get a constant feedback.
This hand signal shows the currently speaking person that they need to speak louder. This hand signal can and should be mirrored by other people, so that it can be seen more quickly by whoever’s talking at the moment.
With this hand signal you can say two things: You can tell the talking person, that he or she is talking to quickly. In a fierce, emotional, angry situation you can tell people: Stay calm, calm down, be fair, be objective, let’s stay constructive.
This hand signal doesn’t have to be used only in multilingual situations. If someone shows it everyone should wait and ask what’s going on. It can mean:
- I need translation.
- I need more time for translation.
- I don’t understand your language (technical language, terminology), please use a simpler language.
- Please use a less discriminating language.
- I didn’t understand a word / some words. Please tell me / us what they mean.
This hand signal is supposed to give a positive feedback to the speaking person: I understand what you’re saying. As we know it from our everyday lives we might feel attacked, but we want to work on only using and interpreting this signal only in this sense. It’s not supposed to criticise what someone said.
It can also tell the group or moderation: We’re going in circles. Sometimes the process is dragging and we don’t get off the spot, in spite of people rising to speak. If the sign is shown like that the group / moderation should think about taking a break or how to change the process.
This handsignal will always interrupt the current speaker’s list and can even interrupt the speaking person (if possible not in the middle of the sentence). It’s not supposed to be misused to bring your own statements or opinions, but only to be used in emergencies or if there is a rational reason that should stop the discussion:
I have important organisational information for the group (dinner’s ready, it started to rain and our stuff is still outside)
I really nead a break. I don’t feel so good. (In this case of course you let the current speaker finish their statement)
If the discussion or the decision making process is dragging, going in circles or generally not going anywhere you can show that you have a proposal how we can continue in another way. This sign will also interrupt the line of speakers but shouldn’t interrupt the current speaker.
This hand signal can show the currently speaking person that he / she lost focus and you’d like him / her to get back on track. You can also show this sign to the whole group to tell everyone: We’ve lost focus, we meant to speak about something else, let’s get back to our topic.
List of speakers
Instead of raising one hand / finger you show as many fingers as your place in the list of speakers would be.
By this means of self-moderation / group-lead list of speakers the task of keeping track of who’s next does not have to be fulfilled by the moderation, which is really great if there is non. Everyone who wants to say something communicates by eye contact with the others to determine where they are in the list. If possible people who speak a lot should let others who haven’t said so much yet go first.