Body language


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Body language

  1. 1. NONVERBAL INTERCULTURAL BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONNon Verbal Intercultural CommunicationThe adage “actions speak louder than words” underscores, in essence, the importance of non-verbal communication. In our global society, where intercultural situations occur often, non-verbal interaction is especially significant. People all over the world use non-verbalcommunication. Its meaning varies across cultures, however, and what is acceptable in oneculture may be taboo in another. All of these variations make misinterpretation a barrier in non-verbal communication. A social and cultural environment, rather than our genetic heritage,determines the non-verbal communication system that we use. 1. Definition o In simple terms, "intercultural non-verbal communication" refers to all conscious or unconscious stimuli other than the spoken word between communicating parties. These non-verbal processes sometimes account for as much as 70 percent of communication. Because of cultural differences, the potential for misunderstanding and disagreement regarding non-verbal communication is great. Therefore, successful interaction in intercultural settings requires just as much understanding of non-verbal messages as the verbal ones. Types o Non-verbal communication is made up of four main categories: kinesics, proxemics, paralanguage and chronemics. Kinesics, or body language, refers to the body movements in communication, such as facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures and touch. Proxemics refers to the study of the use of space in non-verbal communication, meaning anything from architecture and furniture to the distance between people who interact in a given situation. Paralanguage makes up all the sounds people produce with their voices that are not words, including laughter, tone and pace of voice, and “empty” words and phrases such as “um” and “you know.” Chronemics is the study of the use of time in non-verbal communication, including peoples understanding of present, past and future. Kinesics o Common rituals such as nodding in agreement and greeting friends vary considerably from culture to culture. A handshake is the appropriate way to greet someone in some countries such as the United States; a warm embrace is used in
  2. 2. Latin America, "namaste" is spoken in India and a bow of the head is done in Japan. While a Japanese person points his forefinger to his face when referring to himself, a Chinese person points to his nose and a North American usually points to his chest. In some cultures, people focus their gaze on the eyes or face of the conversational partner; in others, they must use only peripheral gaze or no gaze at all. It is very common to greet by hugging a friend or a family member, to touch the person you are speaking to in some cultures. In others, though, people seldom touch at all when speaking.Proxemics o Usually, people keep a "social distance" between themselves and the person to whom they speak. This distance amount differs from culture to culture. If someone stands or sits very close when she speaks with another person, she may see the others attempt to widen the space between them as evidence of coldness, condescension or a lack of interest. Those who prefer having more social distance, or personal space, may view attempts to get closer as pushy, disrespectful or aggressive.Paralanguage o Paralanguage represents the vocal cues that accompany spoken language. Through pitch, speed, volume, pause and silence, people confer emotional and intellectual meanings to their messages. Chinese people value silence more than the use of words; they believe it brings inner peace and wisdom. On the other hand, North Americans tend to think silence has no communication. While a Chinese person would consent to a question through silence, an American would interpret silence as uncertainty.Chronemics o Time is one of the most central differences that separate cultures in the way of doing things. For Western countries, time is quantitative, measured in units that reflect progress. It is logical, sequential and focused in the now, moving toward the future and away from the past. In Eastern countries, however, time feels like it has unlimited continuity. India is the best place to depict the Eastern idea of time. Time moves endlessly through various cycles, becoming and disappearing. Time is infinite, stretching far beyond the human lifetime. According to an essay by Michelle LeBaron on, "There is a certain timeless
  3. 3. quality to time, an aesthetic almost too intricate and vast for the human mind to comprehend." Role o Non-verbal communication is one of the key aspects of communication, and it is especially important in a high-context culture. Its multiple functions include repeating, accentuating, complementing and contradicting a verbal message. This type of communication also regulates interactions, such as non-verbal cues conveying when a person should speak or not speak. Finally, non-verbal communication can even substitute a verbal message through gestures and facial expressions, especially when people do not speak the same language. Each of these characteristics influences intercultural communication and can be responsible for conflict or the escalation of conflict when it leads to bad communication or misinterpretation.References Knowledge Base Essay--Cross-Cultural Communication; Michelle LeBaron "Sino-US English Teaching;" Non-Verbal Language in Cross-Cultural Communication; Wang De-hua and Li Hui; October 2007 Maria CiubotaruNon-Verbal Barriers to CommunicationFacial expressions can be used as a nonverbal communication barrier.Lee Hopkins, a leading Australian business motivator, defines nonverbal communication asanything aside from oral words that send a message. The communication process requires asender and receiver and uses various mediums to deliver the messages. For example, the samemessage can express itself in different ways via a billboard, a handshake or a facial expression.Nonverbal communication is just as important as verbal communication because people respondto what they see more than what they hear. Identify the barriers to your nonverbalcommunication to sharpen you communication skills.ParalanguageParalanguage is the way inflections are used when sending a message verbally. Paralanguagecreates a nonverbal communication barrier when it is misunderstood or not appliedappropriately. It could be a person’s tone of voice, pitch or volume that defines the words to
  4. 4. mean one thing or another. For example, someone can say, “get out of here,” and depending onhow it was said could either mean the person is upset or could be using the phrase as anexpression of awe. If someone is talking, but they are mumbling their words or speaking verysoftly, you may think they don’t care about what they’re saying or they may be shy andintimidated.SilenceThe lack of expression sends a message itself, which can create a communication barrierbetween the sender and receiver. Silence can be used as a threatening tool to ignore anddisregard another person’s need for communication, or it can be used to improvecommunication. Silence, used in the appropriate way, can help you and the other person thinkthrough the messages being sent and how to appropriately respond. A person’s body languagecoupled with silence will help to define the message being sent.Body LanguageBody language can create a communication barrier. A person with their head down, folded armsor turning their back to you are all examples of body language that creates a wall fromcommunicating. Body language is used to send messages that you don’t care, don’t want to talkor that you’re angry. It is the use of your physical body to send a message. This can includepositions, symbols made with your hands or a stance.Facial ExpressionA person’s facial expression can act as a barrier, especially when there is insecurity or fearinvolved in the conversation. Facial expressions can be misinterpreted and misunderstood. Forexample, if you’re telling someone something highly sensitive and they don’t make any facialexpression, you may perceive that they are not listening, resulting in a barrier where you closeoff your heart and end the conversation, according to Ohio University.References Lee Hopkins: Nonverbal Communication Ohio State University: Overcoming Barriers to Communication Mind Tools: Improve Your Communication Skill Nicole Papa: Non-Verbal Barriers to Communication | communication.html#ixzz1fixYHTFgImportance of Non Verbal Communication in BusinessBusiness is about information -- bosses tell employees what they should do, presenters tell theiraudiences about products and sales representatives tell clients about products. For information to
  5. 5. have its desired effect, it must be received in the right way. The speakers non-verbalcommunication skills determine how the listener receives what he or she has to say.TrustTrust is essential to running a successful business. Clients and businesses must trust each other touphold contracts. Employees must trust each other to complete their designated tasks, andteamwork fails without trust. Non-verbal cues play a large part in establishing trust betweenpeople. For example, good eye contact by a speaker encourages trust from his or her listeners.Lee Hopkins, a business communications trainer, suggests that speakers break eye contact intospans of about four or five seconds.ConfidenceAppearing confident is important to establishing an effective image in the workplace. Listenerslook for signs of confidence in speakers to determine how strongly they believe in what they aresaying, and nervousness can seem like a lack of sincerity. Maintaining a straight posture, apleasant expression and a calm manner communicates confidence to listeners. Avoid fidgeting,looking at the ground or pacing while you deliver presentations to an audience. Instead, maintaineye contact and take steps only when they enhance the presentation.AuthorityMost businesses operate using a system of hierarchy. A boss manages the employees under himor her. For management to be effective, the employees must respect the boss and feel aresponsibility to carry out his or her directives. Employee respect comes from the projection of asense of authority. Managers can convey this by maintaining a confident posture. They should befirm, but not aggressive, when telling employees what to do; a show of uncertainty givesemployees a reason to doubt the direction.ConnectionsBusiness opportunities are often found through friends or acquaintances. Building personalrelationships is vital to finding these opportunities, which is why businesspeople placeimportance on the act of networking. Non-verbal communication is important in formingnetworks. A firm handshake creates a bond between people when they meet for the first time,and that connection is strengthened by eye contact when they speak. Calm, affable speechindicates an openness to forming a friendship. These cues, more than the content of what is said,lay the foundation for the formation of a business connection.References Lee Hopkins: Nonverbal Communication in Business People Communicating: Nonverbal Communication in Business Danielle DeLee: Importance of Non Verbal Communication in Business |
  6. 6. business.html#ixzz1fixy8HYz Cultural Differences in Nonverbal CommunicationNonverbal communication expresses meaning or feeling without words. Universal emotions,such as happiness, fear, sadness, are expressed in a similar nonverbal way throughout the world.There are, however, nonverbal differences across cultures that may be a source of confusion forforeigners. Lets look at the way people express sadness. In many cultures, such as the Arab andIranian cultures, people express grief openly. They mourn out loud, while people from othercultures (e.g., China and Japan) are more subdued. In Asian cultures, the general belief is that isis unacceptable to show emotion openly (whether sadness, happiness, or pain).Lets take another example of how cultures differ in their nonverbal expression of emotion.Feelings of friendship exist everywhere in the world, but their expression varies. It is acceptablein some countries for men to embrace and for women to hold hands; in other countries, thesedisplays of affection are discouraged or prohibited.As with nonverbal communication, what is considered usual or polite behavior in one culturemay be seen as unusual or impolite in another. One culture may determine that snapping fingersto call a waiter is appropriate, whereas another may consider this gesture rude. We are often notaware of how gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and the use of conversational distanceaffect communication. To interpret another cultures style of communication, it is necessary tostudy the "silent language" of that culture. Gestures and Body PositioningGestures are specific body movements that carry meaning. Hand motions alone can convey manymeanings: "Come here," Go away," Its okay," and "Thats expensive!" are just a few examples.The gestures for these phrases often differ across cultures. For example, beckoning people tocome with the palm up is common in the United States. This same gesture in the Philippines,Korea, and parts of Latin America as well as other countries is considered rude. In somecountries, only an animal would be beckoned with the palm up.As children, we imitate and learn to use these nonverbal movements to accompany or replacewords. When traveling to another country, foreign visitors soon learn that not all gestures areuniversal. For example, the "O.K." gesture in the American culture is a symbol for money inJapan. This same gesture is obscene in some Latin American countries. (This is why the editorsof a Brazilian newspaper enjoyed publishing a picture of a former American president giving the
  7. 7. "O.K." symbol with both hands!)Many American business executives enjoy relaxing with their feet up on their desks. But to showa person from Saudi Arabia or Thailand the sole of ones foot is extremely insulting, because thefoot is considered the dirtiest part of the body. Can you imagine the reaction in Thailand when aforeign shoe company distributed an advertisement showing a pair of shoes next to a sacredsculpture of Budda? Facial ExpressivenessFacial expressions carry meaning that is determined by situations and relationships. For instance,in American culture the smile is typically an expression of pleasure. Yet it also has otherfunctions. A womans smile at a police officer does not carry the same meaning as the smile shegives to a young child. A smile may show affection, convey politeness, or disguise true feelings.For example many people in Russia consider smiling at strangers in public to be unusual andeven suspicious behavior. Yet many Americans smile freely at strangers in public places(although this is less common in big cities). Some Russians believe that Americans smile in thewrong places; some Americans believe that Russians dont smile enough. In Southeast Asiancultures, a smile is frequently used to cover emotional pain or embarrassment. Vietnamesepeople may tell the sad story of how they had to leave their country but end the story with asmile.Our faces reveal emotions and attitudes, but we should not attempt to "read" people from anotherculture as we would "read" someone from our own culture. The degree of facial expressivenessone exhibits varies among individuals and cultures. The fact that members of one culture do notexpress their emotions as openly as do members of another does not mean that they do notexperience emotions. Rather, there are cultural restraints on the amount of nonverbalexpressiveness permitted. For example, in public and formal situations many Japanese do notshow their emotions as freely as Americans do. More privately and with friends, Japanese andAmericans seem to show their emotions similarly. Many teachers in the United States have adifficult time knowing whether their Japanese students understand and enjoy their lessons. TheAmerican teacher is looking for more facial responsiveness than what the Japanese student iscomfortable with in the classroom situation.It is difficult to generalize about Americans and facial expressiveness because of individual andethnic differences in the United States. People from certain ethnic backgrounds in the UnitedStates tend to more facially expressive than others. The key, is to try not to judge people whoseways of showing emotions are different. If we judge according to our own cultural norms, wemay make the mistake of "reading the other person incorrectly.
  8. 8. Eye ContactEye contact is important because insufficient or excessive eye contact can create communicationbarriers. In relationships, it serves to show intimacy, attention, and influence. As with facialexpressions, there are no specific rules governing eye behavior in the United States, except thatis is considered rude to stare, especially at strangers. In parts of the United States, however, suchas on the West Coast and in the South, it is quite common to glance at strangers when passingthem. For example, it is usual for two strangers walking toward each other to make eye contact,smile, and perhaps even say "Hi," before immediately looking away. This type of contact doesntmean much; it is simply a way of acknowledging another persons presence. In general,Americans make less eye contact in bus stations, for example, than in more comfortable settingssuch as a university student center.Patterns of eye contact are different across cultures. Some Americans feel uncomfortable withthe "gaze" that is sometimes associated with Arab or Indian communication patterns. ForAmericans, this style of eye contact is too intense. Yet too little eye contact may also be viewednegatively, because it may convey a lack of interest, inattention, or even mistrust. Therelationship between the lack of eye contact and mistrust in the American culture is stateddirectly in the expression "Never trust a person who doesnt look you in the eyes." In contrast, inmany other parts of the world (especially in Asian countries), a persons lack of eye contacttoward an authority figure signifies respect and deference. Conversation DistanceUnconsciously, we all keep a comfortable distance around us when we interact with otherpeople. This distance has had several names over the years, including "personal space,""interpersonal distance," "comfort zone," and "body bubble." This space between us and anotherperson forms invisible walls that define how comfortable we feel at various distances from otherpeople.The amount of space changes depending on the nature of the relationship. For example, we areusually more comfortable standing closer to family members than to strangers. Personality alsodetermines the size of the area with which we are comfortable when talking to people. Introvertsoften prefer to interact with others at a greater distance than do extroverts. Culture styles areimportant too. A Japanese employer and employee usually stand farther apart while talking thantheir American counterparts. Latin Americans and Arabs tend to stand closer than Americans dowhen talking.For Americans, the usual distance in social conversation ranges from about an arms length tofour feet. Less space in the American culture may be associated with either greater intimacy or
  9. 9. aggressive behavior. The common practice of saying "Excuse me," for the slightest accidentaltouching of another person reveals how uncomfortable Americans are if people get too close.Thus, a person whose "space" has been intruded upon by another may feel threatened and reactdefensively. In cultures where close physical contact is acceptable and even desirable, Americansmay be perceived as cold and distant.Culture does not always determine the message of nonverbal communication. The individualspersonality, the context, and the relationship also influence its meaning. However, like verballanguage, nonverbal language is linked to persons cultural background. People are generallycomfortable with others who have "body language" similar to their own. One research studydemonstrated that when British graduate students imitated some Arab patterns of nonverbalbehavior (making increased eye contact, smiling, and directly facing their Arab partners), theArabs felt that these students were more likeable and trustworthy than most of the other Britishstudents.When one persons nonverbal language matches that of another, there is increased comfort. Innonverbal communication across cultures there are similarities and differences. Whether wechoose to emphasize the former or the latter, the "silent language" is much louder than it firstappears.