Don’t Point Your Finger!

hillary-points-finger.jpgYour mother told you! “It’s not polite to point your finger at someone.” And she was correct on this point. I do not like to have someone point their finger at me – literally or figuratively.

Senator Hillary Clinton – It is time that you started to listen to your mother! Remember what she told you: “It’s not polite to point your finger at someone. It will not earn you any points (votes) and people do not appreciate it.”


Senator Barack Obama also points his finger. What politician does not? But this post – and my blog – is not about “political finger pointing.” I am not writing about shifting the blame. I am posting and blogging about effective communications.


I have been watching the videos and analyzing the body language of each candidate vying for their party’s presidential nomination. In reviewing the video of the recent CNN debate between Senator Clinton and Obama I noticed a distinct difference in how each candidate uses the fingers to make a point:


  • Sen. Clinton consistently pointed her finger directly at her audience.
  • Sen. Obama usually pointed his finger upwards or to the side.

This may seem subtle to some. And it may prove significant to others. And it may play a role in the outcome of the voting. We will see. We listen to what we see!


However, professional speech coaches agree that you should avoid literally pointing or poking your finger at someone. Here is a quote form Joan Detz, the author of “It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It.”


“Don’t point at the audience. The simple truth is, no one likes to be pointed at.”


At this late date in a heated primary election campaign, Hillary Clinton is probably not listening to outside experts on body language and effective communication styles. She is relying on instinct and (unconsciously) responding in the heat of the moment. In my opinion, she does not respond effectively – especially with ter body language – when feels that she is being attacked or is having her proposals rejected. Who does? I don’t. Do you? Of course not. But we must be aware of how we physically react when we are attacked:


We listen with our eyes.


No matter what we say, people will remember what they see. We remember more of what we see than what we hear.


This is the image that plays back in my head when I see someone pointing their finger at the audience.



It is not a pretty picture. It will not win votes. It is not polite. Just ask your mother. She will tell you – and she will not point her finger at you!

When you give a speech or make a presentation you must present your point of view – that’s why you were invited to speak. To be effective you must state your point, present you case and back up your points and finally give your audience a call to action. Make you point. Point out how you differ from your opponent. Just remember not to point you finger at you audience!

They will get the point.

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