Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Handcrafted by Alex

By Pam

Photobucket  The question has been asked, Could Alex still talk if he couldn’t use his hands? In most interviews he uses his hands to emphasize his words. Some fans have suggested it’s his ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder] that makes him so animated. I can’t find any specific evidence of this other than an adult with ADD can be hyperactive.

When Alex was at NIDA [National Institute for Dramatic Art] studying acting, I’m sure the movement course taught him that hand gesturing on stage enhances the performance. If you know Alex, and I mean if you’ve seen every interview he has ever done…ahem…at least three times…like me... you know he has a tendency toward hand gesturing when speaking. From my perspective, I see an interview as a performance.  There’s a camera, an audience and, for the most part, a story being told.

Photobucket Studies have found that when you communicate through active gesturing, you tend to be evaluated as warm, agreeable, and energetic, while remaining still makes you be seen as logical, cold, and analytic.*

Confident, comfortable people always speak while gesturing with their hands. Nervous people rarely ever move their hands. If you want to appear to be confident and comfortable, you should move your hands.**

If Alex isn’t actively gesturing, he may have his arm extended with his palm up and open.

Open palm gestures indicate candor, while hidden hands (or hands in pockets) signals that the person has something to hide or doesn't want to participate in a conversation.*

What strikes me the most is when Alex is in a conversation, either sitting or standing, and has his arms crossed. I always thought this meant that the person was closing himself off, being defensive or guarded. I was happy to learn that this isn’t necessarily true.

Pacifying gestures are used to help us deal with stress: Any self touching can be calming. You may rub your legs, pull at your collar, play with your hair, rub your neck, or even cross your arms in a kind of "self-hug."*

So, those little “tics” Alex has, like touching his nose or mouth, scratching his neck or cheek, may just mean he needs a bit of comfort in an uncomfortable situation. I can only imagine how monotonous a press junket can be.

*Why Talk with your Hands, by Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D



  1. I don't think Alex's hand gesturing has anything to do with performance and his having done movement class per se. Yes, doing interviews is a performance but I think the gestures are an individual mannerism, not a conscious thing. I imagine he is just as demonstrative when talking off-camera among friends or colleagues.

    I'm a shy and reserved person who can go an entire day without saying more than five sentences. But when I do get engaged in a conversation -- such as chatting among friends or discussing something in a meeting at work -- I hand-gesture all over the place without even realizing that I'm doing it. When I do catch myself, I have to force myself to keep my hands on the table or in my lap.

    There's a great talk by Sir Ken Robinson on "Do School Kills Creativity?" As part of it, he relates the story of a young girl who couldn't sit still in class. Her mother took her to a specialist to try and stop her fidgeting. While many "experts" these days would diagnose her with ADHD, the specialist instead told her mother that there's nothing wrong with her -- she's a dancer, she needs to move to think, take her to a dance school. So the mother did and the girl went on to become a world-famous dancer and choreographer.

    When I heard that story, I thought of Alex, how he also had problems in school and gravitated towards the performing arts. I think, like that girl, Alex needs to move to think -- for him, physical expressiveness is an intrinsic part of the communication process.

    Here's the talk in case you're interested:

  2. To Anonymous,

    Thanks for your perspective on the subject and for the link to the video.