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The Differences in Nonverbal Communication Between Different Cultures

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Nonverbal communication can vary from person to person and culture to another culture.

An example would be pointing. In the U.S. we use the index finger to point, those in Germany use the pinky, while Japanese find the whole idea of pointing with the index finger rude. Western and Arabic Cultures see direct eye to eye contact as positive believing it shows a sign of interest.In the Japanese, African, Latin American, and Caribbean culture, eye to eye contact is avoided in order to show respect.

Handshakes are a common gesture amongst people. While in the U.S. there isn’t exactly a preference for which hand to use when approaching someone, it is a very big deal in Islamic and Hindu cultures to not touch with the left hand for it is used for toilet functions. Generally, Islamics don’t consider handshaking between genders to be appropriate but touching (hugging, holding hands) between same-sex is approved. (Knapp)

All of these factors are important because people are going to have to interact with those of a different culture. Knowing this information can save one from insulting a person of a different culture.

It is often the most important part of communication – the ability to convey feeling and meaning without the slightest utterance. I can tell you I really don’t like such and such, but without my posture, body language and facial expression, you may not really get the picture. Nonverbal cues are highly important as they make up the majority of our total communication with others, and so effective that it’s possible to get elementary concepts across the universal barrier of language. (J Nonverbal behav;41(3).

I don’t have to know mandarin to understand that a person is feeling sad. I don’t have to know a single word in Russian to understand that a mother is happy with her child. At the same time, body cues are so tied to our feelings and emotions that it’s often impossible to disguise them, regardless of what we actually say. Without nonverbal communication, words are just words. We use nonverbal communication to create impressions. Physical appearance cues weigh heavily on this function, but kinesics, chronemics, and other cues all can contribute to how others form perceptions of competence and character. Also, nonverbal communication is used to manage interaction. Facial expression, vocalics, and even proxemics are used to signal turn taking in conversations as well as leave taking.

Nonverbal communication can be separated into 5 categories. a. haptics b. kinesics c.paralinguistics d. chronemics and e. Proxemics. The five categories simplified can be recognized as a). Touch, B). Body language C). The “how” someone said something rather than the “what” D). Time-related and E). Distance related. {(Meadors 38(2)}.

An example of touch could be simply hugging your parents after opening a gift on Christmas morning without saying anything, they know you’re thankful/ liked the gift. Or a guy putting his arm around his date at the movie theatre (he is into her), Giving someone the middle finger (they’re angry, even if they didn’t say it) is a strong body language gesture as well as the peace sign (promotes an ideology without saying anything). Slang such as: “Cool story, bro.” The words themselves don’t matter- the way they said it shows you they don’t care. As well as yelling at someone. The words don’t matter- the way they said it shows you how angry they are.

Being on time at a job interview shows politeness without saying it. Being fashionably late to a party shows you’re important without saying it. A girl sitting on her boyfriend’s lap shows they’re comfortable with each other without saying it. Keeping a couple of feet of distance between yourself and a stranger shows they’re not acquainted, without saying it. Body language is very important. That is how one decides if that person is telling the truth, is open and honest, a nice person, a person I would not want to spend any time with, etc.

They usually look up to the right if one is lying or their eyes begin to dilate. But having dilated eyes can also mean you find that person attractive, so your eyes dilate to basically see more of that person. People don’t realize how much they give themselves away with a simple gesture. Example, arms folded and held against the body close, means, I hear you, but I am not listening, you have nothing to say I want to hear; I’m done talking to you. Never truly looking a person in the eyes when talking, casting eyes down and away when asked a question, means you are possibly hiding something. A lot of the message someone is giving is often in their body language or their tone of voice, not in what they are saying. (Janina,-0255-2). Many times nonverbal communications is more accurate in what the person is trying to say than verbal communication itself. If someone is not telling the truth you can normally pick it up in their body language before they spill the beans verbally.

Nonverbal communication is very good in several occasions and requires lots of observation and skill. An example would be when a surgeon communicates with a nurse using non verbal communication. He never shouts or speaks asking to give me that or give me this. By seeing the expressions on the masked face of the surgeon, the nurse in charge understands what the surgeon need at any time of the operation. Another example would be, a mother can communicating with her child non verbally. For example when they visit a neighbor’s house, the mother can warn the child non verbally, when the child tries to touch the remote of T.V or a glass astray on the teapot in the house without any sound by looking into the eyes of the child.

With nonverbal, one can communicate things that would take a lot of words to describe. You generally show your emotions while you are doing it. Some of them are faster and more obvious than speaking. Pointing at something dangerous is an example. It would be obvious by your body language that something is alarming you and you want them to look in that direction. If you didn’t point, it would take you much longer to get the person to look. We understand a lot of gestures like a cop stopping you at an intersection by holding up his hands. You can see that gesture when it might be impossible for him to communicate verbally with you. They also generally span language barriers and they allow you to communicate with anyone.

More is communicated through nonverbal communication than through verbal. Posture is important in conveying the way one feels. If you want to convey that you feel good about yourself, you obviously wouldn’t want to slouch or look down at the ground. The body can not lie, so if someone is trying to tell you a false statement their mouth may say untruths but the body always states the truth because it responds unconsciously to our thoughts not our words.

Gestures are motions of the body, usually hands or arms, that have a communicative value. Also referred to as illustrators, emblems, and adaptors. Adaptors are usually unconscious and include self touching behaviors that often times indicate nervousness or self-consciousness (Adler).Physical appearance is the perceived physical attractiveness and can affect interaction between people.Clothing, jewelry, metals, adornments, etc. can affect how people react and/or associate with one another.An example of this would be in a school setting. Usually when you see groups of students congregated together, they usually dress in similar fashions (“preps” or “goths”)

Many messages can be conveyed through nonverbal communication as it is easier to read a person’s emotions and know the truth about it compared to having to rely on verbal communication which can be hard to tell if it is factual.

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