Nonverbal communication just like verbal communication aims at presenting specific messages to the other party. Nonverbal communication, which may at times be considered body language, influences the manner in which people communicate. Nonverbal communication may be simpler compared to verbal communication, especially if the two individuals involved in communication exchanges are familiar with the various techniques utilized in nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication is important mainly within the high-context culture for various reasons. It is utilized in repeating verbal messages for instance stating directions, it accents verbal messages and complements the presented verbal messages, as well as, regulates interactions through nonverbal hints on time to speak or stop. They may also substitute verbal communication under various conditions (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2009).
Despite all the functions of nonverbal communications, the cultural differences that exist between individuals involved in different contexts may influence communication in a negative manner. This implies that culture of the different parties may lead to contradiction between the different ways in which the nonverbal messages are conveyed. Therefore, this demonstrates the unique role that cultural differences play regarding conveyance of nonverbal messages. Additionally, poor understanding of the various techniques utilized in the delivery of nonverbal messages may demonstrate the importance of adequate knowledge of the various techniques within a particular culture.
Nonverbal communication may be even harder to grasp compared to the verbal communication techniques since it utilizes nonverbal stimuli within a certain communication setting where the potential of delivering particular message exists. Nonverbal communication utilizes the technical details in the presentation of certain messages, and this comprises of gestures, eye contact, intonation, bodily contact, volume, position, dress, proximity and facial articulation (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2012). These elements contribute to the conveyance of the different messages through nonverbal means. Nevertheless, matters of cultural background, which translates to cultural differences together with regional variations and idiolects, influence the delivery of nonverbal messages. In case of emails, the sender understands that their messages are either funny or sarcastic; however, without the utilization of nonverbal hints, the receivers of these messages may consider the messages to be genuine. This demonstrates the imperativeness of utilization the various techniques in the presentation of nonverbal messages.
However, despite the disparities between cultures over nonverbal communication, communicating in a culturally appropriate manner is necessary. This implies discovering ways of communicating effectively without violation of the norms associated with these cultures. Most people never recognize the disparities in cultures, considering that they are not heavily engaged in nonverbal communication with individuals from other cultures. The variation in the nonverbal communication for different cultures arises from disparities in the norms set regarding particular nonverbal communication techniques (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2009).
Gestures are often considered being extremely potent nonverbal communication techniques since different gestures demonstrate disparities between cultures. Some gestures may cause cross-cultural miscommunications within individuals from different cultural backgrounds (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2012). Pointing within most countries in Asia indicates rudeness towards the other party. However, according to most cultures in the African and western cultures, pointing is indicative of direction where an individual gestures direction through the hand. However, certain cultures utilize single fingers instead of the whole hand. This might generate considerable miscommunication if one utilizes single finger instead of the whole hand or vice versa. Most individuals within the US context utilize the index finger as an indication of direction while in Germany utilizing the pinky indicates direction (Knapp & Hall, 2010). The gesture that is indicative of fineness of events is considered to be extremely offensive in most regions globally. This demonstrates the difference in gestural norms among cultural contexts. The gesture of a closed fist and a sticking thumb demonstrates approval within the American and European context. However, within the Asian and Islamic context, this is indicative of an insult to the other party. Handshakes are considered to be norms within the American context although other regions consider kissing as the norm even for men. Holding hands when talking walks may be indicative of standard norms; however, the American context consider this an indication of romantic relations.
Eye contact can be indicative of an assortment of nonverbal messages including attraction, emotion, attitude or level of interest. Most cultures within the western context consider eye contact as an affirmative attribute, and this is encouraged throughout the school system. However, the diversity of the American context demonstrates disparities according to culture. African-Americans exploit eye contact during conveyance of their intended messages than when listening with the Anglo-Americans demonstrating the opposite of how the African-Americans act. Similarly, nations within Northern Europe have similar approaches as Anglo-Americans while in the US although their region consider eye contact as enticing aspect. In Middle East, prolonged eye contact is expected during conversations since it demonstrates truthfulness and interest to the parties (Knapp & Hall, 2010). However, some regions within Africa, America and Asia utilize avoidance of eye contact is a norm to demonstrate respect. This implies an extended eye contact may be indicative of contempt or challenge of power.
Different cultures demonstrate disparities on the rules that govern physical contact. The norms vary with the category of contact, length and the individual involved in the physical contact. In an American context, individuals shake hands within the first meeting. However, in certain situations, people meeting within the first context may hug. Women within the American context may greet via kissing although a peck in the case of a male or female may be acceptable (Wood, 2010). In an America context, women involved in business dealings shake hands although, under social conditions, the likelihood of hugging is higher. Conversely, the Islamic context disapproves touching between genders but Islamic men who are involved in international business have adopted western norms. African-Americans disregard touching on the hood while most Asian cultures disapprove touching on the head. European Americans usually converse within a distance ranging from 18-39 inches while the Latin Americans converse at distances ranging from 8-18 inches (Croce, 2011). In Turkey, placing hands in one’s pockets is considered as unacceptable, as well as closing one’s legs while sitting (Janet, 2013).
In most cultures within the Middle Eastern context, head movement for indicating ‘No’ is indicative of ‘Yes’ (Stoy, 2010). This demonstrates considerable contradiction in the utilization of this specific nonverbal communication between cultures. This is because what is convectional for most cultures is reversed is certain cultures, which may lead to significant cross-cultural miscommunication.
The acceptability of revealing facial expressions differs between cultures with some cultures disapproving display of certain facial expressions. Smiling is the commonest facial expression among cultures. In a Russian context, smiling unreservedly at strangers may be reflected on as strange and impolite; however, the American context recognizes this as a nonverbal technique of communication with people (Leba, 2010). In an Asian context smiling may not necessarily be indicative of joyfulness or friendliness but can be indicative of pain or embarrassment. In a Scandinavian context, smiles or facial expressions that demonstrate emotions are considered untypical since they demonstrate weakness in display of emotions (Marsh, 2008). According to studies, facial expression has been proven to possess some nonverbal accent that identifies with the individual’s culture.
Paralanguage relates to any non-linguistic aspects of spoken languages for instance, rhythm, tone and pitch. These aspects are construed differently across cultures with certain rhythms or tones being associated with particular cultures. In some cultures, increasing the volume during conversations may be utilized in demonstrating strength or confidence (Yammiyavar, Clemmensen &, Kumar, 2008). This applies to the German and Arabic contexts with the Japanese and Thai contexts interpreting the same as rudeness or losing control. In a Japanese context, giggling is indicative of embarrassment while, in the Indian context, belch indicates satisfaction. Vocal segregates are indicative of different elements across cultures with some being indicative of formality, assent or uncertainty (IBR, 2009).
Communication is presented as a two-way process in which conversing parties utilize different techniques to convey information. However, the techniques utilized in delivering messages may be nonverbal, which may direct to considerable contradiction when one or more cultures are involved. This is because different cultures demonstrate variation in the utilization of nonverbal communication. In order for diverse communities or culturally diverse groups to realize culturally appropriate communication, the involved parties have to ascertain, recognize, comprehend and work according to the influences of individual cultures (Gudykunst, 2007). One has to have a clear understanding of their own cultural influences, before understanding the culture of another group. Accordingly, different cultures may interpret or construe nonverbal messages differently, which may cause possible misunderstanding a culturally diverse population. Every category of nonverbal communication has its limitations, which are usually set through the norms of the involved cultural groups. Nonverbal communication norms serve as determinants of the acceptability of a certain element within a specific culture. Nonetheless, most cultures demonstrate similarities in the presentation of most nonverbal messages. In some cases, individuals living diverse populations seem to adopt the norms of that population, which reduces nonverbal communication barriers thus promoting the utilization, shared nonverbal communication techniques. Additionally, globalization and international trade relations have prompted people to learn and adopt nonverbal communication within certain cultures. The examples provided on nonverbal communication in a cross-cultural context demonstrate the disparities that arise while utilizing nonverbal techniques in conveying certain messages.
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