Nonverbal Communication as a Barrier of Intercultural Communication

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Culture is a complex concept. There are various definitions of culture, ranging from broad to narrow. Moreover, the concept of culture changes as society develops. Presently, many definitions of culture indicate the close relationship between culture and communication. With the continuous development of society, communication between different nations becomes increasingly significant. It is a dynamic process characterized by continuous information exchange between people of different cultural backgrounds. During the process of communication, cultural diversity may become barriers to communication and may result in misunderstanding, embarrassment, or even conflicts among people with different cultures. They try to solve these problems by probing into barriers to intercultural communication. Many cultural differences take the form of nonverbal communications. The nonverbal area is relatively new and still is being studied and developed; however, most of us have had enough experience to be aware of its existence and importance. One must be careful to keep this area in perspective and to consider nonverbal elements as only a part of the total communication effort—while the nonverbal may be important, it is not always the whole story. If a person frowns while listening to you speak, it may indicate doubt or disagreement; on the other hand, the person may have a headache or the light may be bothersome. It is important for you to remain alert to nonverbal signals, but it is also essential that you decode them accurately. There are many examples to illustrate that cultural differences may become barriers to nonverbal communication respectively. For example, in USA, the V sign with “the two fingers and the palm face out” means victory, but in Indonesia, it means number two “whether the palm faces towards the speaker or the palm faces out”. Suppose a Japanese person is explaining her absence from negotiations due to a death in her family. She may do so with a smile, based on her cultural belief that it is not appropriate to inflict the pain of grief on others. For a Westerner who understands smiles to mean friendliness and happiness, this smile may seem incongruous and even cold, under the circumstances. Even though some facial expressions may be similar across cultures, their interpretations remain culture-specific. It is important to understand something about cultural starting-points and values in order to interpret emotions expressed in cross-cultural interactions. Crossing cultures, we encounter very different ideas about polite space for conversations and negotiations. North Americans tend to prefer a large amount of space, perhaps because they are surrounded by it in their homes and countryside. Europeans tend to stand more closely with each other when talking, and are accustomed to smaller personal spaces. In a comparison of North American and French children on a beach, a researcher noticed that the French children tended to stay in a relatively small space near their parents, while U.S. children ranged up and down a large area of the beach. These examples of differences related to nonverbal communication are only the tip of the iceberg. Careful observation, ongoing study from a variety of sources, and cultivating relationships across cultures will all help develop the cultural fluency to work effectively with nonverbal communication differences. In this paper, I am as the writer will analyze about Nonverbal communication as a Barrier of Intercultural Communication and also give some advice to solve this barrier of intercultural communication.


Culture is a complicated social phenomenon. With social development, the concept of culture is changing...
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