Se-users: Do you talk with your Hands?

ComradeJocasta asked: Is it possible that upper-Se users might be more likely to gesture a lot when they speak?

I haven’t actually found much research on this topic. However, I’ve given it a bit of thought, and I’d like to hear everyone else’s thoughts as well.

My ESFP brother definitely is NOT a hand talker. However, he does have a strong need for touch and physical contact with people he’s comfortable around. Same goes for my ISFP room-mate.

Out of anyone in my family or friend group, I’m actually the one who talks most via my hands. However, I don’t necessarily attribute this to my Se function so much as to the fact that I’m relatively fluent in Sign Language. Before I learned Sign Language, I didn’t gesture at all when I spoke, but now talking and gesturing practically go hand in hand for me (wow, that was a terrible pun).

It’s the same with any language. As soon as you’re fluent in more than one language, and especially if you know more than two, it’s hard to force yourself not to blend the elements of each. At the same time, you also keep many elements very separate as well (for instance, I swear a lot more in German than I do in English).

Upper Se-users. Now is your time to talk! I’m interested to hear whether you talk with your hands.

26 thoughts on “Se-users: Do you talk with your Hands?

  1. My mom is a dominant Se user and she talks with her hands all the time. I’ve never seen her talk without gesturing widely and excessively.


  2. Another INFP “observing” Se users here.
    My INFJ mother with very stifled Se is clearly inclined to gesture, but it comes out as very nervous nad unsure.
    All INTJs I’ve ever met tended o be very exact in gestures and talk a lot with their hands. Two of them know sign language and apply it in voice conversations as well, admittedly subconsciously – pretty much as you described.
    xSFPs seem to need a lot of space when talking, even if they don’t gesture much. In fact the sole ISFP I know doesn’t gesture at all.
    On another note, Ne-doms’ hands tend to be all over the place.


    • I’m an INTP who often speaks with their hands, and observing others with upper Ne, it seems like many of them often make wild gestures while speaking, too. My ISFP sister rarely makes the sort of gestures I make, and I know many dom Se users who I haven’t noticed gesturing as they talk. So I don’t think that hand gestures are really a Se thing, but more of a Ne thing.


      • Well, people of every type gesture, one way or another. I’d be more inclined to say that N-types gesture trying to clear up their ideas (or just straight up visualize them in front of the other person, if they are visual thinkers) – see the examples below about “drawing” or “writing” while explaining. Whereas S-types stay more externally-based (with either theoretical knowledge and past experience or current incentives and surroundings-awareness) so they don’t need to “translate” things into gestures. Upper Se users seem to use their enviroment to _process_ things more than to _explain_ them, therefore they might need touch while talking (or the exact opposite). Also, Se-users are far more aware of their actual surroundings than us upper Ne people, that’s why they don’t usually hit chandeliers while talking :D (yes, it did happen to me; multiple times, actually).


        • Yeah, I guess that hand gestures don’t depend on the type, but what someone is trying to convey with their hand gestures does. My INFJ dad uses hand gestures, but I know other INFJs who don’t use them as frequently.
          Hitting a chandelier while speaking? That seems like a very stereotypical Ne thing, haha


  3. Okay, so my sister is an ESFP, & she doesn’t hand-talk much. She nods or shakes her head a lot, and stares at the person she’s talking to intensely. Doesn’t touch the other people much. Its rather similar to how my ISFJ father interacts with someone – staring at someone over his glasses, talking loudly & emphatically without using his hands much. He talks much slower than my sister, though.
    Now, my mother is an INTJ and while she doesn’t gesture much with her hands all the time, when there’s a concept or opinion she’s trying to explain, she touches the nearest surface with her index finger or thumb, sometimes with them joined, tapping the surface rhythmically as she talks. Looking at her then makes me think she’s writing a bulleted summary in her mind as she’s talking. She even scratches the surface impulsively if she’s made a mistake or at a loss for words, as if striking out sections of her mental thesis. Absolutely no touching, she doesn’t like being touched.
    I’m an INFJ, & I gesture with my hands a lot whenever I’m trying to explain something. I don’t even think about it, it comes naturally to me. Its like I have a flowchart of points in my mind & I’m trying to recreate it step-by-step in the listener’s mind. No touching – I don’t allow anyone to touch me unless we’re very, very close emotionally.
    An INTP I know waves his hand around a lot while lecturing in class, but his facial expression remains completely deadpan. My ISTJ friend hates it, but I don’t really mind.


  4. As an INTJ I also have this hand talking thing, but it’s a pretty common behavior in my country. What people notice though is my overly expressive face.


  5. INTJ and not a hand talker. Then only time I use my hands when I speak is when I am being funny, to be, well, more goofy – which usually works since I usually don’t use my hands to emphasise anything (re: previous post on this blog not too long ago on inferior function coming out with friends/family).


    • I forgot to add: when I explain something (Te) I do not use my hands either, but I do use a pen/board/paper to write things down as I mention them. This is not hand talking to me. If I have nothing to write while I explain, I probably have something on a slide or a screen showing up so I can point to it. Else I get annoyed and fidget, and must cross my hands to stop it. I hate explaining without holding something in my hands to write or doodle.


  6. My opinion is based completely on my observations as I haven’t done any kind of research.

    I’ve noticed that my ISFP friend and my ENFJ mother both use many hand gestures while speaking. I think a well developed Se has something to do with this as the frequency and freedom of their movements don’t get really affected whether they know the person they have in front of them or not. They’re also too touchy for my liking, since they’re comfortable with me, and they have the need to touch everything, especially when they have to learn something new.

    On the other hand, as an INFP whose sensing functions are almost undeveloped, my hand movements tend to vary, from using them way too much when I’m comfortable and interested in the topic, to using them significantly less if I don’t know that person well or the discussion doesn’t interest me. But it could also be that I’m extremely shy with strangers and even intimidated by them sometimes. As you said, learning sign language has helped me practice using my hands more freely than I did before learning it. Even now that i don’t use it frequently the habit has stayed with me.

    In conclusion, I think that hand gestures and touching stuff come more naturally in upper Se users than for the rest of us, but there are many other things that affect us, either consciously (trying to develop a function) or subconsciously (knowledge of a sign language).

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  7. I know 3 INTJs in my life. My brother, his wife and a friend. All three of them use their hands when they talk and especially when they explain something. I am an INFJ and do the same thing. My ENFP sister always makes fun of me and our brother for the way we use our hands when talking.
    I have observed that my ESTP and ISTP friends use their hands a lot to explain things but in a more controled way. They mostly know when they gesture. On the other hand, me and the INTJs have, most of the time, no idea we gesture until someone points it out to us.

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  8. This is such an interesting question!

    Similar to your observations, Arvid, I’ve noticed that the upper Se users I know are the ones who are most likely to be moving their entire bodies or bouncing up and down while talking. They often move closer while speaking and engage you in what they’re saying by putting a hand on your arm or increasing the intensity of their voice.

    As an inferior Se user (INFJ), I find that my movement while talking is pretty much confined to my hands. I’m not normally a physically restless person, but if I’m with a group of friends I’m comfortable around and I’m getting excited, I tend to start waving my hands around quite a bit. (The more I think about that, the more related it seems to some of the discussion in your recent post about INTJs and being uncomfortable with inferior Se.) I’ve seen this to be the case for my INTJ friend as well.

    If I’m in a more serious discussion and I’m arguing a point, I make a lot of really precise hand motions, like tapping the table on a specific point or making some sort of gesture that goes along with what I’m saying. Heh, as if gesturing in a nuanced fashion will convince everyone that my words are precise. *Sigh*
    I’ve been doing this more and more over the years, as my arguments have become more nuanced; I tend to choose very exact wording, and I think that gesturing with my hands helps me subconsciously clarify (for myself, at least) that “no, I’m not misspeaking, I mean THIS word.”

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  9. I am also fairly fluent in sign language but I don’t think it has influenced the amount that I gesture when speaking. The two specific situations I notice that I’m more apt to use my hands are when trying to explain how something looks or where an object is located.


  10. I gesture a lot, mainly when I’m explaining something. I use my hands (and often my whole body) to try and paint a clearer picture of what I’m talking about.


  11. I’m not Se dominant, but I have a large family and several of my relatives are.

    Both of my grandmothers are ESFPs. My paternal grandmother rarely uses hand gestures but she has a habit of twiddling her thumbs while talking. And my maternal grandmother uses them mostly when she’s explaining something or making a point, but she will occasionally make subtle hand gestures in general conversation too.

    I also have two uncles, two aunts, and three female cousins that are ESFPs. And my dad and a male cousin are ESTPs.

    My dad uses a lot of big hand gestures, and during conversations he likes to peacock for a couple seconds now and then (put his hands and arms up in the air kind of like a peacock does its tail feathers).

    Uncles: one doesn’t use hand gestures at all and the other rarely uses them.

    Aunts: one uses them often and the other uses them only occasionally.

    Cousins: of the ESFP females, two of them use a lot of hand gestures and one doesn’t use them much. And the ESTP male doesn’t use hand gestures.

    One thing that most of them, there’s two exceptions, have in common is that when they’re in a group of people they tend to talk louder than whatever the general volume is. Not that they boom over everyone, but in a room full of chatter their voices are always the easiest to pick out.


  12. Interesting. I am not a Se-user, but I’m an ENFP and a hand talker. However, I hate people touching me, especially strangers. To touch me, you must have a strong context and be very and extremely intimate to me. And already happened that someone who thought it was enough intimate and I started to piss off with the constant physical contact of this person. I’m very extrovert and I like people. But no touching, please.
    (Sorry for my English)


  13. As a inferior Se user I have a tendency to do this to some degree but not excessively. I don’t recall doing so when I was younger so I think it is something I have picked up from my mother over the years. My mother has a tendency to be quite expressive with her hands, even while talking on the phone, but she is a tertiary Se user so I wonder if it relates more to her dominant Fe?… On the other hand (yes I just did) my brother is an auxiliary Se user and he almost never uses hand gestures while talking.

    All in all, it is an interesting thought but I think that it relates more to external things such as learning sign language or picking it up from someone around you, than it does to Se.

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  14. I don’t think it’s Se as much as it’s Ni. I know my (I’m an INFJ) hand gestures are linked to what I’m seeing in my head, as my memory is almost purely visual. I’ve noticed I “point to” or reference certain parts of an image in space. I read somewhere that gesturing helps free up working memory. It’s like you communicate or express yourself halfway with body language, the other half with words, which works great for a visual person because coming up with words in a spontaneous fashion is somewhat difficult. I also think Fe users (being more demonstrative in general) may be more inclined to gesture. And, lastly, introverts may gesture in a more compact way, while extroverts may be grander about it, so more noticeable..

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    • That’s a lot like me. When I gesture with my hands (and I do so quite a lot), I’m almost always doing it to try to explain an ABSTRACT concept–which, in my mind, has somehow become “visual” and which I’m trying to make someone else “see.” (Sounds weird, I know.) Whereas, the sensors in my life are often using their hand gestures to explain a PHYSICAL concept–such as how a car engine works, or exactly how a particular sports match was won or lost, etc.

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      • I think my experience is similar. I don’t usually gesture unless I’m talking about ideas, and then I can gesture so much that I surprise myself.


    • This sounds do much like my INFJ mother explaining her thought process I smiled. But she is very uncomfortable with her gestures, my guess is due to long Ni-Ti loop.


  15. Wow, fascinating. I’ve often wondered about this topic, but never thought to ask whether it was connected to personality type.

    I’m an INFJ, and I talk with my hands more than anyone else I know, except for my dad (Si-dominant). The weird thing is, I’ve always done it–even when I was a small child. I wonder if it’s something I just picked up from my dad (you know, learned behavior)? Or if it’s an inherited thing? I don’t know.

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  16. I don’t think talking with hands is related to Se. As an INFJ, Se is my inferior function and I gesture a lot when I talk. At times, I prefer gestures to speaking.

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