Nonverbal communication or body language is an important part of how people communicate and there are differences from culture to culture. Hand and arm gestures, touch, and eye contact (or its lack) are a few of the aspects of nonverbal communication that may vary significantly depending upon cultural background. We may think that nonverbal communication is universal, but it's not. Every culture interprets body language, gestures, posture and carriage, vocal noises (like shrieks and grunts), and degree of eye contact differently.
For example, nodding the head up and down would indicate yes, but in some countries, it means just the opposite. In the Middle East, nodding the head down indicates agreement, while nodding it up is a sign of disagreement; in Japan, a up-and-down nod might just be a signal that someone is listening The thumbs-up signal is vulgar in Iran. The "OK" signal made by forming a circle with the thumb and forefinger refers to money in some countries, while in others it's an extremely offensive reference to a private body part. Point with the wrong finger, or with anything less than your entire hand, and you risk offending somebody, and while some cultures value eye contact as a sign of respect, averting your eyes may be the sign of respect in others. The list goes on and on: Some countries consider a handshake rude, and it's always rude to hand an object to another person with your left hand in the Middle East -- after all, that hand is reserved for matters of personal hygiene. While burping after a meal is considered the height of uncouthness here in the U.S., a hearty belch is a sign of appreciation for the cook in India. In some places, people value a certain degree of personal space in conversation, while those from the Middle East might get right up in your face when they want to converse. In Latin America, it's expected that you'll get very touchy-feely with both strangers and friends -- perhaps exchanging a hearty embrace -whereas in the U.S., such contact might be considered sexual. And restrain the desire to pat a child on the head in Asia; there's a belief that such a touch would damage the child's soul. Facial expressions might be the only form of nonverbal communication that could be considered universal. It was Charles Darwin who first proposed that all cultures express emotions the same way with their faces, a hypothesis that was supported by laboratory studies in the 1960s. Researchers determined that there are six universal facial expressions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. In more recent years, other researchers have argued that looks of contempt and embarrassment may also constitute universal expressions. No matter where you are, it seems, you must remember that your body is always saying something, even when you're not speaking. When we interact with others, we continuously give and receive wordless signals. All of our nonverbal behaviors—the gestures we make, the way we sit, how fast or how loud we talk, how close we stand, how much eye contact we make—send strong messages. These messages don't stop when you stop speaking either. Even when you're silent, you're still communicating nonverbally. Oftentimes, what comes out of our mouths and what we communicate through our body language are two totally different things. When faced with these mixed signals, the listener has to choose whether to believe your verbal or nonverbal message, and, in most cases, they're going to choose the nonverbal because it's a natural, unconscious language that broadcasts our true feelings and intentions in any given moment. The way you listen, look, move, and react tells the other person whether or not you care, if you’re being truthful, and how well you’re listening. When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you’re saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don’t, they generate tension, mistrust, and confusion. According to experts, these nonverbal...
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