Non Verbal Communication

Name: Sithembile Musemburi Assignment 1: What aspects of non verbal communication are likely to differ when people from different cultures communicate? Communication is a very important aspect of the human life, since it is the communication that helps human beings and other animals to connect with each other, as individuals and as independent groups. Communication serves a number of functions; to disseminate information, to express ideas and emotions, for education, to build relationships, for entertainment and for decision making purposes and is done verbally or non -verbally.

Verbal communication involves the use of language, speech and voice where as in non verbal communication the body does the coding for us in form of gestures, facial expressions, posture, and paralanguage. This is why nonverbal communication is also termed the body language. Culture constitute the totality of socially transmitted behaviour patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. These patterns, traits, and products are the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.

Hence patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular people may not be treated in the same regard to another people. This essay seeks to describe the aspects of non-verbal communication that are likely to differ when people from different cultures communicate. Examples will be drawn from different cultures to demonstrate these differences in cultures Samovar et al (2009), defined communication in the following way, “communication occurs whenever meaning is attributed to behaviour or the residue of behaviour. With this, different people from different cultures can possibly give different meanings to behaviour depending on how they understood it. This statement also supports that we should be careful about how we act as someone can give meaning to our actions whether they were conscious or unconscious. Culture has been defined by Hall (1974), as the medium evolved by humans to survive. He further states that nothing in our lives is free from cultural influences. The way people talk, dress, eat, walk is influenced by their culture.

This explains why culture and communication can not be separated as it has a great impact on communication as well. Culture is not genetically defined but is learned through the society we grow in. As a child grows in a community, they learn through observations and being taught what is acceptable and inacceptable in that culture. This in turn shapes the values of that child. Hoebel and Frost define culture as an, “integrated system of learned behaviour patterns which are characteristic of the members of a society and which are not the results of biological inheritance. The environment and setting one was brought up in and lives in determines how we communicate. Non verbal communication according to Samovar et al (2009) is,”any communication that involves non verbal stimuli that are generated by both the source and his or her use of the environment and that have potential message value to the source or receiver. ” The behaviours that most people engage in consciously and unconsciously contribute to non verbal communication. A reflex action of behaviour is triggered during a conversation that can sell one out even if verbally they seem to be in agreement with what is being said.

Non verbal behaviour can easily substitute the verbal communication as it represents our true emotions in most cases Although Ekman et al (1975) suggests that some non verbal communication aspects of facial expressions are universal, there are many aspects of non verbal communication which differ from one culture to another. As much as facial expressions of anger, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise are more or less the same amongst all cultures there are some non verbal aspects that mean totally different things from one culture to another which might have serious repercussions to the sender and receiver if coded and decoded in ignorance.

A wrong gesture or facial expression can make or break a business deal or proposal whether it was intended or not. As much as culture is diverse all over the world, non verbal aspects of communication are bound to differ depending on where you are and where you are from. Those aspects include but are not limited to the following, facial expressions, head movements, hand and arm gestures, physical space, touching, eye contact, and physical postures. Although smiling is understood as an expression of happiness in most cultures, in some cultures like the Chinese it may mean something sad or uncomfortable is being discussed.

However, in Bulgaria and Thailand, nodding means the opposite, a very definite “no”. Physical space refers to the distance which people feel comfortable approaching others or having others approach them. It can be categorised into the following , intimate space reserved for intimate relations, private or personal space for friends and relatives, social space for workmates , colleagues, then public space for strangers. People from certain countries, such as parts of Latin America or the Middle East often feel comfortable standing closer to each other, while persons of Northern European descent tend to prefer a relatively greater distance.

Ruch (1989) writes, “Typical Arab conversations are at close range. ” He goes on further to say that;”… closeness cannot be avoided”. Although is it is so with the Arab, they have exceptions when to comes to conversing between a man and a woman as Samovar et al (2009) state that, In Arab cultures a man is not allowed to stand close to a woman not even his wife where as in western countries a husband and wife signal their relationship by walking side by side. This means that depending on one’s culture, distance at times is not necessarily determined by the relationship but rather by the gender of the people involved.

This explains why in some people would move away or step back in a bus queue when they feel one is standing too close for comfort thus invading their private space. The use of hands to communicate can assist comprehension or deter it, depending on the situation. Some hand gestures that are popular in one culture have no meaning or an entirely different meaning in another culture. A good example is the thumbs up gesture or the OK sign. These have vulgar meanings in Iran and Latin America, respectively, yet in other countries the “OK” sign means just “zero”, which is not offensive.

In the Unites States it is used as a sign for approval and success, whereas the thumbs down convey the opposite. In Europe the thumbs up is also a signal for “good bye”, or a greeting in passing, especially among young people. Touch is also another aspect of non verbal communication that is culturally determined and thus can also be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Depending on the context or scenario that led to the touch, it sends across different messages. Different cultures have different beliefs on what parts of the body can be and can not be touched.

In Asians cultures, the head is said to house the soul so most Asians do not touch the head and do not want their heads touched. Some Americans are annoyed if touched on the head as they feel belittled. Touch is used as a sign of comfort, to arouse, to show affection, to greet, to protect, to congratulate on a job well done and even to provoke. Although a handshake is common as a means of greeting in most cultures, according to Jones (n. d. ), ‘Never assume that someone from another culture wants to shake hands at all. ”This greeting is peculiar to some cultures as such one should not assume that it is a universal gesture of greeting.

She further advices males never to attempt shaking hands with a woman from another culture unless she extends her hand first. ” This is attributed to that contact between people of the opposite sexes is restricted in the Asian and Arab cultures which are mostly Muslim states so hand shakes are not recommended unless otherwise indicated. Kim (1992) also observes that Asians do not touch ordinarily during a conversation especially between people of the opposite sexes because many Asians cultures do not believe in public display of affection and intimacy.

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