What do I do with my arms and hands?
September 11, 2007 6:09 PM   Subscribe

I don't know what to do with my arms and hands when I'm nervous.

They just feel awkward, like big old sausage links hanging there. I don't want to cross my arms because it makes me look aloof and apathetic. What do I do? This happens when I'm in front of people or even one-on-one with someone--even with friends sometimes.
posted by HotPatatta to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Pants with pockets are your friends. To sound scientific-ish about it: this enables a casual, but not defensive posture. It's not entirely open (i.e., vulnerable), but it's not closed off either. For me, it just removes that "what are these useless & awkward appendages!?" feeling.
posted by tigerbelly at 6:15 PM on September 11, 2007

Are you a boy? Do you wear pants with pockets? Sometimes men will jiggle their keys or change with their hands in their pockets, which I think looks sort of devil-may-care and relaxed. (But I suppose others may feel looks like they're touching themselves privately.)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:15 PM on September 11, 2007

Concentrate on the audience, not yourself.
posted by caddis at 6:15 PM on September 11, 2007

I assume we're talking about standing up, yes? If there are walls, you can touch them or lean on them, ditto for chairs. If it feels natural, use your hands a little to punctuate whatever you're talking about. I'm someone who feels a little awkward when I'm nervous, so I make a point of talking with my hands- but when I'm not nervous, I talk with my hands a lot.

Basically, "acting as if" is your friend. Act like you would if you were not nervous and while it will feel stilted for a while, you'll gradually forget you were "acting as if" you weren't nervous- and it will feel a lot more natural. At least, that's the way it works for me.
posted by arnicae at 6:19 PM on September 11, 2007

Stroke your chin thoughtfully. Bonus points if you have a beard to do this with. Or, rest your hand on a table/notebook/flat thing, and silently count in binary using lifted/lowered fingers for 1s and 0s.
posted by rossmik at 6:31 PM on September 11, 2007

I'm a 26-year old guy and I don't look natural when I try to use a lot of gestures and "talk with my hands."

Does it look stupid to just let my arms hang at my sides? I feel like I must look dumb when I do it, but I'm probably over thinking this WAY too much.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:37 PM on September 11, 2007

Hold your fingertips - reporters seem to do that to keep them from flailing around. Bonus - you can incessantly and discreetly stroke a thumbnail or something. Works sitting or standing. Lying down, it'd look a bit weird.
posted by b33j at 6:40 PM on September 11, 2007

Hands behind the back! It gives you that "i'm important listen to me" pose.
posted by knowles at 7:01 PM on September 11, 2007

Twirl pencils.
posted by beandip at 7:19 PM on September 11, 2007

If you don't know what to do with them, don't do anything. Let gravity work for you. If you're sitting, fold them on your lap or on the table in front of you. Just focus on the conversation or what you're doing. Don't think about this beyond that. This isn't something you need to think about.

Start there, so you can stop thinking about them, since that's your biggest problem. It might help if you started doing some relaxation/deep breathing exercises, and maybe some yoga or something, since I'm sure this stems from some deeper issue with anxiety and/or tension.
posted by poweredbybeard at 7:34 PM on September 11, 2007

Pay attention to what you do with your hands while you are not nervous, then emulate that as best as you can.
posted by rhapsodie at 10:45 PM on September 11, 2007

do ninja magic?
posted by juv3nal at 11:32 PM on September 11, 2007

Worry beads are great - they'll actually make you feel less fidgety, and a nice set is a great conversation piece.
posted by beezy at 1:30 AM on September 12, 2007

knowles gets it.

A relaxed, confident posture is one in which you're open. When you're nervous you want to keep your hands in front of you to fend off an attack. Even though that instinct is natural, to look confident you have to fight it.

So, clasp your hands behind your back, or behind your head; or tuck your thumbs in your trouser pockets.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:03 AM on September 12, 2007

At a training I went to (for trial lawyers), there was discussion about what to do with your hands. One instructor pointed out that it may feel awkward and unnatural to just let your hands hang by your sides, but it doesn't look awkward or unnatural. It seems like an obvious statement, but it really helped me accept that it was perfectly fine to stand that way. I have to focus on letting them just hang there, but it's getting more natural.
posted by Mavri at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2007

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