Communication Differences

Topics: Nonverbal communication, Eye contact, Facial expression Pages: 5 (1351 words) Published: April 29, 2006
What is non-verbal communication?
Definition "nonverbal communication involves those nonverbal stimuli in a communication setting that are generated by both the source [speaker] and his or her use of the environment and that have potential message value for the source or receiver [listener]. Basically it is sending and receiving messages in a variety of ways without the use of verbal codes (words). It is both intentional and unintentional. Most speakers / listeners are not conscious of this. It includes — but is not limited to: touch

eye contact (gaze)
vocal nuance
facial expression ? pause (silence)
word choice and syntax
sounds (paralanguage)

Broadly speaking, there are two basic categories of non-verbal language: nonverbal messages produced by the body;
nonverbal messages produced by the broad setting (time, space, silence)

Why is non-verbal communication important?
Basically, it is one of the key aspects of communication (and especially important in a high-context culture). It has multiple functions:
Used to repeat the verbal message (e.g. point in a direction while stating directions. Often used to accent a verbal message. (e.g. verbal tone indicates the actual meaning of the specific words). Often complement the verbal message but also may contradict. E.g.: a nod reinforces a positive message (among Americans); a "wink" may contradict a stated positive message. Regulate interactions (non-verbal cues covey when the other person should speak or not speak). May substitute for the verbal message (especially if it is blocked by noise, interruption, etc) — i.e. gestures (finger to lips to indicate need for quiet), facial expressions (i.e. a nod instead of a yes). Note the implications of the proverb: "Actions speak louder than words." In essence, this underscores the importance of non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is especially significant in intercultural situations. Probably non-verbal differences account for typical difficulties in communicating.

Cultural Differences in Non-verbal Communication

General Appearance and Dress
All cultures are concerned for how they look and make judgements based on looks and dress. Americans, for instance, appear almost obsessed with dress and personal attractiveness. Consider differing cultural standards on what is attractive in dress and on what constitutes modesty. Note ways dress is used as a sign of status?

Body Movement
We send information on attitude toward person (facing or leaning towards another), emotional statue (tapping fingers, jiggling coins), and desire to control the environment (moving towards or away from a person).

More than 700,000 possible motions we can make — so impossible to categorize them all! But just need to be aware the body movement and position is a key ingredient in sending messages.

Consider the following actions and note cultural differences:

Bowing (not done, criticized, or affected in US; shows rank in Japan) Slouching (rude in most Northern European areas)
Hands in pocket (disrespectful in Turkey)
Sitting with legs crossed (offensive in Ghana, Turkey)
Showing soles of feet. (Offensive in Thailand, Saudi Arabia) Even in US, there is a gender difference on acceptable posture?

Impossible to catalog them all. But need to recognize: 1) incredible possibility and variety and 2) that an acceptable in one's own culture may be offensive in another. In addition, amount of gesturing varies from culture to culture. Some cultures are animated; other restrained. Restrained cultures often feel animated cultures lack manners and overall restraint. Animated cultures often feel restrained cultures lack emotion or interest.

Even simple things like using hands to point and count differ.

Pointing : US with index finger; Germany with little...
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