It’s not just words that can make us look smarter. Our non-verbal communication also transmits our level of intelligence. One of the most common forms of non-verbal communication is gestures that we make with our hands. Hence, why we say that some people “talk with their hands.” Here are 25 hand gestures that you can use in business and life that make you look smarter:

  1. Benediction: This hand gesture involves raising your right hand with the ring and little fingers touching the palm while the index and middle fingers remain in the raised position. Although it has some religious connotation, this hand gesture is now viewed more as wishing someone well.
  2. Critical whirl: Circle your hand counterclockwise in a small, rapid motion towards your audience. Doing this while you explain a concept adds interest, emphasis, and apparently some credibility to what you are telling others. It’s highly recommended for a speech or as part of a conversation at a cocktail party.
  3. Outstretched hand: With your palm in the upwards position, you can choose to do this hand gesture with one or both hands. Using both hands gives the appearance of a bowl. Some may interpret this as begging, but a greater meaning is when this is used to illustrate a bountiful measure that is being extended or shared with others as you move your hands forward and toward others.
  4. Shelf sweep: This gesture requires the use of both hands and involves pushing aside the contents of an imaginary row of books in one direction and then starting on another row by sweeping in a different direction. This hand gesture is supposed to assist when noting the removal of one set of ideas for a new set that deserves to be the focal point.
  5. Money sign: This hand gesture involves rubbing your thumb over the tip of your index and middle fingers in a repetitive motion. This can be used when talking about sales and is a symbol that everyone in a sales meeting is sure to understand.
  6. Backhand slap: Slap the back of your dominant hand into the palm of your non-dominant hand. This hand gesture is used to reinforce your point or argument when it appears that your audience is unresponsive or not in agreement with what you are saying.
  7. Pointing finger: While your mom might have told you it was rude to point, it does have merit when you are an indicating a particular item. This often adds clarity and emphasis to what you are verbally communicating about that item as well as gets your audience to focus.
  8. Italian waiter: When trying to engage your audience in the point that you are trying to make, point your hand towards your mouth and then move your wrist back and forth. To increase emphasis, add more arm movement. Both arms may need to move to engage with a much larger audience.
  9. Respect gesture: This hand gesture involves put out your index, middle, and ring fingers with the middle finger slightly above the other two. This signifies that you are giving respect and approval to the other person that you are gesturing to.
  10. Pickup: Reach down and towards an imaginary pile of sand, pinch a small amount, lift it up with closed fingers and return your hand to its original position. You can repeat this movement a few times for emphasis. An optional extra to this hand gesture is to present the idea that you have “picked up” to your audience in the palm of your hand, which is combining this gesture with the outstretched hand gesture. This shows your audience you have something you want to share and gets them to focus on the idea that you are including them in something valuable.
  11. Thumbs up/down: This is a universally understood symbol of approval/disapproval now also commonly used in social media. It is done through extending the thumb while the other fingers stay tucked into your hand. This hand gesture can be recognized all over the world for its meaning.
  12. Academic muscle flexing: To illustrate to your audience that you are including them on a test of new research, make your hands bounce from side to side as if they are jumping on an imaginary trampoline. Repeat this motion until you have shown that your academic muscle has worn itself out. This is an ideal hand gesture to use when you are taking an idea and putting a different spin on it from the expected context.
  13. The wave: Although it was often a common sight, this type of acknowledgement of meeting or parting has been disappearing as communicating virtually has led many to forget their social graces. By raising your hand and moving it left to right, you are letting another person that you know they are there or they know that you are leaving. Either way, it’s providing an important visual cue to the beginning or end of communication.
  14. Applause: When you put both hands together in a clapping motion, you are letting someone else know just how much you approve or value what they have done. Your staff can be motivated by this type of praise, so that makes you pretty smart because you are doing something that most likely will improve morale and raise productivity.
  15. Victory clasp: With this hand gesture, you need both hands in order to clasp them together and shake them to one side of you and maybe even the other.
  16. Handshake: This greeting ritual has been used seemingly since the dawn of mankind. Two people grasp each other’s hand, often moving them up and down vigorously. As another seemingly lost social grace, the handshake is a means of acknowledging and welcoming someone else in both professional and personal situations. While not every culture uses the handshake, most do, and, when ignored, can offend someone or, at the very least, lead them to conclude you are unpolished. When you use a handshake, make sure it is firm and you make eye contact.
  17. High-five: While you might be wondering how this may look smart, it is a hand gesture often used with Millennials and other generations, so if you use it, then you may be able to connect with those people on a deeper level to be admired and influence. This celebratory hand gesture ritual is one that involves two people, each raising one hand and slapping these together. It’s hard not to feel the excitement that goes into this hand gesture.
  18. Hand movements lager than your body outline: Used to communicate a big idea or concept, these hand movements can incorporate many forms. While this can be effective in creating credibility, it is best to use these conservatively because if it is all you ever do, you might get the opposite effect. In fact, people might think you are out of control rather than smart.
  19. The ring: Often attributed to the Italians, this hand gesture is similar to the A-OK hand gesture except that, in this case, the ring is formed by the thumb and forefinger and placed on top with the palm of the hand facing medially. The arm then moves up and down from the elbow to further emphasize this hand gesture, which is used to emphasize a point or illustrate some specific information for the audience.
  20. The dialectic: In order to designate a shift in ideas in a conversation, this is a visual cue that helps your audience follow along. Grip an imaginary object between your thumb and forefinger, rotate your wrist ninety degrees in a snapping motion, and then move back to the start position in a smooth rotation. You can repeat this hand gesture to illustrate the level of importance.
  21. The tiny dialectic: This is the same movement as above but using a smaller imaginary object that you put closer to your eyes when going through the motions. The difference here is that this hand gesture is more ideal for focusing on a specific detail or in communicating with a more informal audience.
  22. Open hands with palms down: This hand gesture shows that you have complete confidence in what you are sharing with your audience.
  23. Facing palms with linked fingers: Taking it a step further, this hand gesture elevates your intelligence level to expertise. It is a pose that was often used by intellectuals throughout history when they were called upon to discuss their research or insights.
  24. Open hands with palms at 45-degree angle: This hand gesture not only communicates that you know what you are talking about, but it also sends the message that what you are sharing is honest.
  25. Hands in prayer: Bringing your hands together as though you look like you are going to pray and then resting them around your chin gives the impression that you are deep in thought, contemplative, or meditative. All of these indicate that you like to spend time in quiet reflection, adding to that smart mystique.

Remember why you use these hand gestures so they are used at the right time, for the right reason, and for the right audience. There are many cultural nuances inherent in body language meaning so that while one country may respond well, others could be confused or offended by your non-verbal communication choices. Do your research first, see how others react, and practice until they are perfect.