BODY SPEAKS: THE IMPORTANCE OF BODY LANGUAGE 2005 NACADA National Conference Kris Rugsaken Ball State university Muncie, Indiana
How Does Body Speak?
Like any spoken language, body language has words, sentences and punctuation.
Each gesture is like a single word and one word may have several different meanings.
According to the social anthropologist, Edward T. Hall, in a normal conversation between two persons, less than 35% of the social meanings is actually transmitted by words.
So, at least 65% of it is conveyed through the body (non-verbal channel).
Why Is It Important to Understand Body Language?
A murder case in Los Angeles in 1988.
President Bush senior in Australia in 1993
An American teenager in Nigeria in 1997
An American couple in New Zealand in 1999
People in other parts of the globe are more perceptive to “body language” than the North Americans (do).
Let’s Examine How Body Communicates, from head to toes
Nodding the head
“Yes” in most societies
“No” in some parts of Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Turkey
Tossing the head backward
“yes” in Thailand, the Philippines, India, Laos
Rocking head slowly, back and forth
“yes, I’m listening” in most Asian cultures
Facial expressions reflect emotion, feelings and attitudes, but…..
The Asians are sometimes known as
Encouraged in America, Canada, Europe
Rude in most Asian countries and in Africa
“Yes” in Thailand and some Asian countries
“Hello” in the Philippines
Sharing secret in America and Europe
flirtatious gesture in other countries
bored or sleepy in America
“I’m listening and concentrating.” in Japan, Thailand, China
“I’m sorry.” in parts of India
Cupping the ear
“I can’t hear you.” in all societies
“You are in my heart” for Navajo Indians
Holding the nose
“ Something smells bad.” universal
“ It’s confidential.” England
“ Watch out!” or "Be careful.” Italy
Pointing to nose
“ It’s me.” Japan
In most Asian countries, blowing the nose at social gathering is ‘disgusting.’
gesture of praise - Italy
“That’s crazy.” Germany
“pretty, attractive, success” most Europe
LIPS AND MOUTH
Whistle, yawn, smile, bite, point, sneeze, spit, kiss..
Kiss. In parts of Asia, kissing is considered an intimate sexual act and not permissible in public, even as a social greeting.
Kissing sound. To attract attention in the Philippines, to beckon a waiter in Mexico.
Finger tip kiss. In France, it conveys several messages, “That’s good!” “That’s great!” “That’s beautiful!.”
LIPS AND MOUTH (Cont’d)
Spitting in public is considered rude and crude in most Western cultures.
In the PRC and many other Asian countries, spitting in public is to rid a person’s waste and, therefore, is healthy.
THE LIP POINTING
Lip pointing (a substitute for pointing with the hand or finger) is common among Filipinos, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, and many Latin Americans.
Open mouth . Any display of the open mouth is considered very rude in most countries.
Some cultures, like the Italians, use the arms freely. Others, like the Japanese, are more reserved; it is considered impolite to gesticulate with broad movements of the arms.
Folding arms are interpreted by some social observers as a form of excluding self, “I am taking a defensive posture,” or “I disagree with what I am hearing.”
Arms akimbo . In many cultures, this stance signals aggression, resistance, impatience, or even anger.
Arms behind back , hands grasped is a sign of ease and control.
Arms in front , hands grasped, common practice in most Asian countries, is a sign of mutual respect for others.
Of all the body parts, the hands are probably used most for communicating non-verbally.
Hand waves are used for greetings, beckoning, or farewells.
The Italian “good-bye” wave can be interpreted by Americans as the gesture of “come here.”
The American “good-bye” wave can be interpreted in many parts of Europe and Latin America as the signal for “no.”
The American way of getting attention (raising a hand with the index finger raised above head) could be considered rude in Japan, and also means “two” in Germany.
The American “come here” gesture could be seen as an insult in most Asian countries.
In China, to beckon a waiter to refill your tea, simply turn your empty cup upside down.
Handshaking is a form of greeting in most Western cultures.
In the Middle East, a gentle grip is appropriate.
In most Asian cultures, a gentle grip and an avoidance of direct eye contact is appropriate.
Hand-holding among the same sex is a custom of special friendship and respect in several Middle Eastern and Asian countries.
Right hand . The right hand has special significance in many societies. In certain countries in the Middle East and in Asia, it is best to present business cards or gifts, or to pass dishes of food, to get an attention, using only the right hand or both.
Left hand is considered unclean in much of the Middle East and in parts of Indonesia.
Hang loose. (thumb and little finger extended)
could convey different meanings:
in Hawaii, it’s a way of saying, “Stay cool,” or “Relax.”
in Japan, it means six.
In Mexico (do vertically), it means, “Would you like a drink?”
Clapping hands .
Russians and Chinese may use applause to greet someone.
In many central and eastern Europe, audience frequently clap in rhythm.
The “O.K.” signal. (the thumb and forefinger form a circle) means
“fine,” or “O.K.” in most cultures,
“zero” or “worthless” in some parts of Europe
“money” in Japan
an insult in Greece, Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Russia and some other countries
“ Thumb-up” means:
“O.K.” “good job” or “fine” in most cultures,
“Up yours!” in Australia
“Five” in Japan; “One” in Germany
Avoid a thumb-up in these countries: Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Russia, and most African countries.
Pointing with the index finger is common in North America and Europe.
But it is considered impolite in Japan and China where they favor using the whole open hand.
Malaysians prefer pointing with the thumb.
LEGS AND FEET
In Asia, do not point with your toes.
In Asia and some European countries, putting feet up on a desk or any other piece of furniture is very disrespectful.
Sitting cross-legged, while common in North America and some European countries, is very impolite in other parts of the world.
LEGS AND FEET (Cont’d)
In most Asian countries, a solid and balanced sitting posture is the prevailing custom. Sitting cross-legged shows the sign of disrespect.
In the Middle East and most parts of Asia, resting the ankle over the other knee risks pointing the sole of your shoe at another person, which is considered a rude gesture.
Walking can reflect many characteristics of a culture. For example,
In parts of Asia and some of the Middle Eastern countries, men who are friends may walk holding each other’s hand.
In Japan and Korea, older women commonly walk a pace or two behind male companion.
Asians often regard Western women as bold and aggressive, for they walk with a longer gait and a more upright posture .
HOW PEOPLE OF VARIOUS PARTS OF THE WORLD VIEW AMERICANS
Careless with dress, manners, and body movement
Generous as neighbors
Superficial, shallow and short-lasting friendship
Confident but demand almost too much of self
Ethnocentric - less interested in others
Independent - Individually feeling, not to “fit other’s mold.”
Source: Tyler, V. Lynn. Intercultural Interacting. (1987)
FOR ALL OF US…
Becoming sensitive to the clues of body language can help us communicate more effectively with students.
We can understand what students are saying even when they are not talking.
We can sense when students are silent and digesting information, or when they are silent and confused.
We can share feelings too strong or too difficult to be expressed in words,
Or decode secret messages passing silently from person to person,
And we may spot contradictions between what students say and what they really mean.
Finally, we can learn to be more sensitive to our own bodies – to see how they express our feelings and to see ourselves as others see us.