Gestural Categories: The Power of the Leveller

By January 20, 2016 August 27th, 2018 Blog, Gestures, Physiology

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The hands can sometimes tell you more about a person’s intention than their words. You can use this to your advantage as a presenter. One of the most notable gestures is called “The Leveller” – a ‘hands-down’ gesture, which signals assertiveness and conveys conviction, confidence and authority. It can also close a conversation or negotiation. Even if the Leveller gesture doesn’t seem natural to you at first, work on it for presentations and see where it could fit. It will project assertiveness, self-assurance and confidence – and these are traits your audience will respond to.

According to Virginia Satir, who was a leading family therapist, the hands can tell you more about a person’s intention than their words. She described a set of five gestures that describe certain intentions.

One notable hand gesture is known as the “Leveller”. Leveller is a hands-down gesture. Imagine, for instance, saying to a child who is getting a little out of control, “That’s enough!” Instinctively, your hands would ‘push down’, in an attempt to level out the situation.

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When making your final offer during a negotiation, you would use this gesture to indicate the assertion and finality of your decision.

Leveller is simply assertion. It conveys conviction, confidence and authority. The (slightly) startling effect of using the ‘hands down’ gesture is that it lowers your voice. For a long time, the acting profession has known the secret of hand gestures influencing your tone of voice, so let’s borrow it for everyday communication. Leveller is a great place to start.

Voice tone is a universal ‘language’. For instance, adults the world over almost always use a high-pitched voice when speaking to infants and children. Tone is used to indicate emotion and mood.

Generally, softer tones and pitches are associated with friendliness; they are considered non-aggressive and helpful. And in many situations in life, softer tones are seen as appropriate.

However, there is a time and place for assertiveness. This is where Leveller kicks in. For both men and women, lower tones are associated with authority and truth. The reason for this, as a lot of neurological research shows, is that voice tone stimulates the brain’s right hemisphere, which is responsible for emotion, rather than logic.

The challenge, then, is your default gestural preference. If Leveller is not a gesture you use unconsciously, it may feel strange at first. You may even think you come across as pushy or overly aggressive. This feeling needs to be worked through. You won’t want to use it all the time, but at first, use it a lot. Experiment until you see where it adds value to your communication.

Remember, the gesture conveys assertion, self-assurance and confidence, and as a bonus, it lowers your voice to an authoritative level.

In the Mastering Communication program, our Facilitators will delve deeper into physiology and hand gestures, utilising proven practices, tools and techniques to properly plan and deliver a presentation to any audience.

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The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.