Stop staring at my hands....!
October 12, 2006 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I've just had a short tutorial with two of my students, and one of them kept staring at my hands...

As part of my job I help out students sitting professional exams; these two failed so we had a quick overview tutorial. I was speaking quickly and rather animatedly explaining overarching concepts and the breadth of the syllabus when I noticed one of them was staring at my hands...

I am quite body-language aware, and have worked on my own body language through the years - I like to think I hold myself well, make good eye contact etc and I know that when I'm holding court on a subject I know well, I have very positive body language. But I found it really disconcerting to have someone watch my hands intently.

Do we have any body-language experts that can explain / relate to this? What does it say about someone if they watch your hands when you're speaking....
posted by khites to Human Relations (14 answers total)
What were your hands doing?
posted by bingo at 7:58 AM on October 12, 2006

maybe they were high? any chance of that?
posted by joeblough at 8:02 AM on October 12, 2006

I like hands. I find them intriguing. In some I find them sexy. Of all the things to get hung up about, having someone watch your hands seems kind of tame.

You admit that you were being animated and it seems like you communicate physically. I think it's only natural that some people would follow your hands.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:05 AM on October 12, 2006

Yesh, if someone's a hand talker, I find myself watching the hands. Especuially if it looks contrived.
posted by orthogonality at 8:07 AM on October 12, 2006

I don't think there's a lot of meaning here...they were probably just uncomfortable looking directly at your face/eyes (they were there because they failed an exam) and a pair of moving hands was a good alternative. Would you rather have had them staring at your crotch?
posted by meerkatty at 8:09 AM on October 12, 2006

posted by slimepuppy at 8:11 AM on October 12, 2006

Best answer: Do you know what kind of learner you were speaking to? If they were a visual learner, and you weren't presenting visual information, they could have been looking at your hands for clues about how to parse what you were saying. If they were a kinetic learner, they could have been internalizing your jestures to parse the information.
posted by peeedro at 8:13 AM on October 12, 2006

Sorry, I'm not an expert, but I can relate. I talk with my hands; more so than most people. The vast majority of people don't make any mention of it, and it doesn't hinder communication. But some people just cannot ignore it, and act as if it were the craziest thing they have ever seen.

I think some people are simply more easily distracted visually than others.
posted by spaltavian at 8:22 AM on October 12, 2006

Also, was it boring? I remember that in grade school, if I found a topic uninteresting, I would pretend Mario was jumping around from ledges all around the room, even onto tufts of the teacher's hair.
posted by spaltavian at 8:39 AM on October 12, 2006 [2 favorites]

Maybe you need to clean or trim and manicure your nails?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:32 AM on October 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks Thorzdad - that was one of my thoughts when I noticed her staring, but they're fine!

Peedro - thanks for the links - you might have hit it; it didn't seem that they were bored or distracted, just that one was following my hand gestures almost like they were following the bouncing ball - its something I'd never seen before, and I present pretty frequently...

Bingo - just normal kinda gestures for emphasis - moving left to right as i ran through a process, pointing at thinsg that weren't there - d'you know how hard it is to describe normal conversational gestures?! Makes me even more aware of how I move my hands!
posted by khites at 9:57 AM on October 12, 2006

I would probably be that person staring at your hands. I wouldn't mean anything by it, I just have a hard time not focusing on movement.

I work with a guy who talks with his hands like that and I find it extrememly distracting. I've actually interrupted him mid-conversation, saying, "Dude, I have no idea what you just said. Your hand movements are really distracting me. Would you mind toning it down just a little?"

Thankfully, he was cool with it and tones it down when we're talking one on one.
posted by Rubber Soul at 11:17 AM on October 12, 2006

Also to consider: in some cultures generally and also for some people it is thought rude to look someone in the eye (and often also, say, at what could be construed as 'erogenous zones'), and so it is entirely possible that this person simply had nowhere else to look...what with it being a two-student tutorial.

On top of that it's potentially a stressful situation -- having just failed some professional exam -- and your student may simply have drifted off mentally while looking at your hands.
posted by little miss manners at 1:37 PM on October 12, 2006

Don't take it personally. I am always distracted by hand movements and to top if off need to focus on lips when people are talking in chaotic environments. If you want this person to stop staring, don't use your hands so much when talking to them (easier said than done).
posted by qwip at 2:47 PM on October 12, 2006

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