When talking with a client, what should I do with my hands?

Should I put them in my back pockets? Let them hang? Put them over my pockets?

This may sound stupid, but it is an important component to keep a professional look. Also, I don't want to look silly or weird or uninterested to the clients.

I have no training whatsoever on how to behave with a client, and I never will. I learn a lot from here and by try-error-hear an angry boss.

There's no HR, I can't ask my boss, Google doesn't have a satisfying answer and this is literally driving me insane!

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Keep in mind comments are for clarification/questions of the asker, not extended discussion - use the chat room for that. Thanks.
    – enderland
    May 13, 2015 at 17:08

3 Answers 3


Short answer: carry a notebook and pen - it'll give your hands something to do. You can switch both items to a single hand for handshaking purposes. You can also use them to make notes, so you'll seem (and possibly be) well-organised.

Long answer:

  • Stay present - think about what needs to happen at that very moment. Not about what has happened or what might happen.
  • Control breathing and energy - provides a sense of control. Slowing down breathing and reducing muscle tension will allow the athlete to regain control of performance.
  • Let go of negative thoughts - move on without reacting to the negative thoughts.
  • If the problem is severe and you can't control it by yourself, consider seeking out a course of cognitive behavioural therapy with a focus on social anxiety. This should help you put into practice some techniques for dealing with social anxiety in a work context.

Hope that's helpful!

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    That is indeed extremely useful! I have no idea where I can take such course. And my economical situation is about to get really awful. So, I really can't spend any money on that. (Fear not, I won't be fired!) If I were an athlete, I would be choking all the time. And those techniques seem a good idea to implement. And yes, I may suffer from social anxiety (I don't have medical evidence of such). But I really like the way you answered the (silly) question and compiled all the content in the comments here. I think I can't thank you enough. May 13, 2015 at 10:57
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    No problem at all Ismael, if it's helped then I'm glad. And it's not a silly question at all! It's a very common problem. Personally I find I tend to hold onto the scenery (lectern etc) when giving presentations to groups of people - holding a pen as per Vietnhi Phuvan's advice below helps me with that.
    – A E
    May 13, 2015 at 10:59
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    I only gave a presentation once. And it went smoothly. The clients were important, but my boss was there. I was shaking! But it all went well. I think that having a pen would work for me too. I usually focus too much on how I look like and my phisical presentation. And sometimes the content (a.k.a. what I say to the client) has really poor quality. May 13, 2015 at 11:03
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    NHS = National Health Service = Serviço Nacional de Saúde, CBT = Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Your family doctor is probably a good place to start.
    – A E
    May 13, 2015 at 11:15
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    I'm the most illiterate person when it comes to this kind of thing. I really know nothing. I had no one to tell me what to do, so, I'm always lost. But I will study and try to register for a doctor and see what else I can do. Thank you so much for your huge help! May 13, 2015 at 11:36

It generally depends, part of social interaction is building a rapport which means you're somewhat in-sync with them. Copying their actions is a great way to do this (e.g. sipping a drink when they do), so copying how they have their hands is a good way of doing this.

If I'm stood up I would generally have my hands to the side of me (which I don't always feel comfortable with) or clasped in-front of me like this picture

enter image description here

This looks fairly natural, and because you're stood up doesn't feel like you're placing barriers + being introverted to the client. You're also less likely to move your hands drawing attention to them so will probably feel a bit less self-conscious. I would be less inclined to do this if I were sat down.

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    Looks a little studied to me, unless you're defending a free kick, but whatever comes naturally...
    – A E
    May 13, 2015 at 11:01
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    For those who can't get the reference: @AE is talking about football (soccer for habitants in the U.S.A), where people form a bareer and they place the hands like that to protect their.... jewels... so the ball doesn't hurt them. May 13, 2015 at 11:05
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    @AE, no doubt it looks studied, Penn & Teller make their living with their hands, nothing about their posing, especially their hands, is incidental.
    – Jason
    May 13, 2015 at 15:23
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    I really disagree with this answer. Holding your hands in front of your crotch looks strange -- it's what people do when they're uncomfortable in front of a crowd and don't know what to do with their hands. Professional photographers (the ones that know what they're doing) make a big point of telling people to put their hands at their sides, or in their pockets, anything to look relaxed without putting hands in front of the crotch.
    – Rocky
    May 13, 2015 at 16:16
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    In toastmasters we call that pose "the fig leaf", and it's a big no-no. Better to be expressive with your hands. May 13, 2015 at 17:29

It's a cultural issue. Mediterranean peoples like to use their hands as a conversation enhancer. Using your hands when talking is a lot less common in the US. I personally like people who get passionate enough about a subject to start using their hands. The only caveat about using your hands in a conversation is that you should allow some extra physical space between you and your conversation partner. Keep in mind that some people do feel physically threatened when you start using your hands. In the US, I'd say keep your hands use to a minimum but don't leave them stiffly hanging by your sides either.

I'd say, talk to the client, get the client interested. If you are totally focused on communicating with the client and doing a thorough job of telling the client what the firm can do for them, the last and least thing you'll worry about is what your hands are doing and what to do about your hands.

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    I agree with your point of view, but it is actually extremely weird to have the hands in my pockets, while explaining to a client what we can do. May 13, 2015 at 10:50
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    @IsmaelMiguel Absolutely not your hands in your pockets! Hold a prop like a pen - you may use the pen anyway to write something down, or an ipod or your business cards. If you are at an Expo, put some swag or business cards in your hand to give away to visitors to your booth. May 13, 2015 at 10:57
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    I think that it would look stupid to hold a pen when talking with a client that only wants to know where is the store xyz. (It happens a lot.) But I will also try that. No doubt in there! May 13, 2015 at 11:00
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    @zfrisch OK, I get that you don't use an ipod to manage your contact info. May 13, 2015 at 17:50
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    @zfrisch The iPod touch was really close-looking to the iPhone3. You can have your contact info there, just as you would in a cellphone. So, I see nothing wrong in having an iPod on your hands. May 13, 2015 at 18:47

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