People tend to interact with each other in many ways. They use words and nonverbal cues to be able to express their ideas, feelings and emotions to their recepient. These verbal or nonverbal cues will represent the whole system of interactions between and among people. But, there are varying degrees in projecting ideas, feelings and emotions. Note that nonverbal cues is more profound in the act of interactions with other people because it can attract and convince a larger volume of recepients.
Sending and receiving wordless messages create impressions on the parties as they communicate with each other. To do the same involves processes through the use of different channels. Nonverbal communication is usually understood as the processes of interaction and communication through sending and receiving messages. In connection with these, there are so many different “channels” of nonverbal communication and these include hand gestures and greetings, actions during conversation, touch and contact, hand signals, body language and posture, gestures, space and distance including personal space, seating arrangement, facial expressions and emotions displayed, smile which is actually universal, eye contact and speaker and also the listener.
Knowing the different channels of nonverbal communication, we should not forget that people in different countries with different cultures project different reactions pertaining to nonverbal cues. Thus, it is respectfully submitted that projection of nonverbal communication of people in the United States is different compared to other countries for the reason that there is differences in cultural background and orientation. To prove this statement, several evidence is expected to be laid down and presented in this paper.
Hand gestures are gestures performed by one or two hands. Some hand gestures are closely related to speech, some are even like words themselves. Gestures using the hand may be called as emblems or emblematic gestures. Using one hand it include beckoning sign, blessing, thumbs up, thumbs down, imitating a hand gun, biting one’s thumb, crossed fingers, fig sign, to name a few of them. These gestures specifically belong to different cultures. Meaning, the type of gestures have a fixed meaning that can be verbalized in a couple of words within one culture. For instance, the same hand may mean something different in another culture.
Figure 1. Japanese hand gesture.
For American people, gestures play a very important role in conveying their messages. Their gestures tend to clarify, contradict or replace verbal messages. Aside from that, when Americans usually use their hands in communicating, they tend to convince a lot of people because it is so effective. For the Japanese, the most common hand gesture that really can influence persons is the bunny sign, the one being shown as figure. In France, most of the people there can communicate through French sign language. For French people, some gestures are vulgar, others are as innocuous as shaking or nodding one’s hand.
For greetings, there is awide difference also among countries. People in the United States prefer handshaking in greeting someone they meet. Asians do avoid body contact. Japanese just use their bowing tradition than handshaking. Hispanics on the other hand, often expect body contact. In fact, hugging and kissing on the cheek is acceptable for same and even opposite sex.
Conversation is actually a spoken interaction between people and it involves an exchange of information and thoughts. In a conversation, faces changes expressions continuosly, and many of these changes are synchronized to what is going on in a conversation. In effect, facial expressions are linked to the content of gthe speech, emotion, personality and other behavioral varaibles.
People in the United States usually take turns during conversation that they may participate. As such, one person says three of four sentences, then the other person continues the conversation by expanding on what was just said. However, in particular, Icelanders turned out to better manage and coordinate their actions in conversation than Italians since the former followed a smoother rhythm that can be shown by a larger repitition of the same behaviour units in the same critical interval of time.
Touch and contact is very personal when it comes to communicating people. Touch is most frequently referred as the sense of touch. That is seen as such that a materail object is perceived by means of the contact with it of some part of the body. But, there should be caution in expressing one’s self by means of touch and contact due to its being personal. This is because it may cause other people uncomfortable. The cultural diversities of countries may vary also regarding the sense of touch. In line with these, you do not have to touch an American to make them nervous. Know that Americans expect others to stand or sit a least an arm’s length away from them. So, when you get closer than this, it can be noticed that they may move away from you. But is does not mean that they dislike you, it is just that you are in their space. Compared to India, it is far from being individualistic because the most common form of greeting someone in many parts of India is by placing your hands together where palms facing each other and saying namaste, which means “greetings and regards” in Hindi. So, it is recommended that you should not be alarmed when you visit a family and the children bow down before you. It is their way of showing that they respect you and want your blessing. In essence, you just have to place your hand lightly on their head, a gesture that means you are blessing them. If the person is already old, what needs to be done is just to smile.
Hand signals actually is the same with hand gestures, but this one is more related with hand gestures that do not necessarily involve speeches or conversations. This may include all kinds of actions of a person. In most cases, hand signals are used by cyclists and motorists to indicate their intentions to other traffic.
In the United States, people extend their hands using the left upper-arm out to the left, parallel to the road and angle the forearms vertically upward. Arm to the right however, has the advantage that is more visible to any traffic likely to be affected, for example vehicles in the next lane to the right or also intending to turn right. In the Czech Republic, there are two possibilities as my be based by law, either to extend the right arm parallel to the road, or to extend the left arm with forearm angled vertically upward. In connection with that, cyclists use usually the first possibility, the other drivers which is sitting on the left of the vehicle without the traffic men use the second possibility. Hand signals virtually helped in sending messages or information practically in a functional situation like driving a car along the road following traffic rules.
Movements and gestures by the arms, hands, legs and other parts of the body and face are the most pervasive types of nonverbal messages and the most difficult to control. Actually, humans express attitudes toward themselves and vividly through body motions and posture. Because such avenues of communication are visual, they travel much farther than spoken words and are unaffected by the presence of noise that interrupt or cancels out language or speech.
As an example of differences in body language gestures, reading body language is very different for many Japanese than it is for Americans. The study reveals that in cultures where emotional control is the standard, such as Japan, focus is placed on the eyes to interpret emotions. Whereas in cultures where emotion is openly expressed, such as the United States, the focus is on the mouth to interpret emotion. It is believed that in terms of body language, nobody beats the Italians in sheer number of gestures. Also, posture is understood through such indicators as direction of lean, body orientation, arm position and even body openness. Lastly on this part, Canadians are hardly understood by tourist when they express by means of body language.
Gestures also serve an important function with regard to regulating the flow of conversation. For Americans, frequent and sometimes large gestures are normative. In fact, the expressiveness of the communication is what is valued and if the gestures increase expressiveness they are seen as enhancing communication. Brazilians are considered among other LatinAmericans to be big “touchers”. As such, Brazilian women shake hands upon meeting someone, but most commonly they greet with a kiss, usually twice on alternative cheeks. In addition to that, gestures are so frequently used when speaking French, that is why gesture plays a very important role in French communication.
To have a greater view on the topic, it is necessary to discuss the statements of Edward T. Hall concerning specific distances which are commonly observed by North Americans ( Hall, 1996, p.1). These are intimate distance, personal distance, social distance, public distance and even vertical distance. Intimate distance means from actual touching to eighteen inches. This zone is reserved for those with whom one is intimate. At this distance, it is understood that physical presence of another is overwhelming.
Personal distance on the other hand means, from eighteen inches to four feet. This is the distance of interaction of good friends. As such, this would also seem to be most appropriate distance for teacher and student to discuss personal affairs such as grades, conduct and private problems. Social distance exists from four to twelve feet. It seems to be an appropriate distance for casual friends and acquaintances to interact. While public distance means outward from twelve feet a speaker becomes formal. Classes of teachers who maintain in this distance between themselves and their students are generally formal, and some students may feel that the teacher is cold and distant. The vertical distance between communicators is often indicative of the degree of dominance a sub ordinance in the relationship. With this point, people are affected by literally looking up at or looking down on another person. It can be inferred that the illustration is more concerned on the mode of instruction that may be used by a teacher with his students. This is because it is more concrete as an example for illustrating spaces and distances and even personal distances.
Essentially, personal space refers to the distance which people feel comfortable approaching others or having others approach them. 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 are basically tend to prefer a relatively greater distance. Moreover, different distances are also intuitively assigned for situations involving intimate relations, ordinary personal relationships such as friends, social relations like that of co-workers or salespeople or in public places in parks, restaurants or on the street.
With respect to seating arrangement as a nonverbal cue, most countries are just the same especially that they usually use the same kinds of seating arrangements. Like in classrom discussions, mostly people in different countries use the traditional method of seating arrangement. The modified seating arrangement as well as circle and horse shoe positions are only used when there is a small group of people communicatng with each other.
We should know that facial appearance including wrinkles, muscle tone, skin coloration, and eye color offers enduring cues that reveal information about age, sex, race, ethnic origin and even status of a person. Basically, a less permanent second set of facial cues including length of hair, hairstyle, cleanliness, and facial hair-relate to an individual’s idea of beauty. A third group of facial markers are momentary expressions that signal that cause changes in the forehead, eyebrows, eyelids, nose, lips, cheeks and chin such as raising the eyebrows, wrinkling the brow and that of curling the lip. There are also facial expressions that are readily visible, while others are fleeting then. Practically, the human face is the primary source of information for determining an individual’s internal feelings next to words. In addition to that, there are eight emotional states and these are determination, pouting, fear, neutral or no emotion, sadness, anger, surprise and lastly disgust.
Americans tend to judge and define a person’s emotional expression by looking at the mouth but Japaneses are more likely to look at the eyes to know one’s feelings. Maybe because the Japanese when in the presence of others try to supress their emotions more than Americans do. Japanese people tend to shy away from overt displays of emotion and usually rarely smile or frown with their mouths for the reason that the Japanese culture tend sto emphasize comformity, humbleness and emotional suppression and traits that are thought to promote better relationships.
Figure 2. A picture of facial expression.
Another gesture to discuss is the most interesting one which is smile. A smile is known to be attractive and makes everyone glow. It is widely known that a smile is a friendly gesture that can make a newcomer feel welcome. It may also project insincerity of a person in conversing with another person. Pan American smileshow politenessof a person and sometimes may be considered as professional smile. Compared to other people, Americans are less happy people because it has been known that Filipinos are the happiest people in the world no matter how difficult circumstances are. Another thing is the nonverbal communication of Koren-Americans wherein they have reluctance to make eye contact. In fact, smiling and joking are activities that are acceptable only in certain situations under certain conditions. On the other hand, if a person smiles or give jokes in an appropriate manner, these expressions demonstrates a lack of intelligence and respect. In effect, we should not forget that smiling is still a positive way of coping stress. Thus, we should smile often no matter what nationality we belong as long as it is proper.
In communicating, it is necessary that the eyes can pierce a person’s soul, especially when speaking in front of an audience. That is why eye contact is necessary. Note that the most dominant and reliable features of the face which is the eyes, provide a constant channel of communication. The expression of the eyes can be shifty and evasive, it can even convey hate, fear and guilt feelings, it can epxress confidence, love and support.
The eyes are sometimes referred to as the mirror of the soul and thus it serve as the major decision factor in interpreting the spoken words. It xan be understood that people tend to look longer and more often at those whom they totally trust, care and respect about than those they do not like as a person. During a public speaking, a speaker who tend to looks at an audience is seen to be favorable, confident, credible, qualified, honest and less forma and nervous than the same person delivering the identical message while avoiding eye contact.
Americans most likely look in the mouth than in the eyes when they communicate. In connection with these, in some cultures, looking peoplein the eyes is assumed to indicate honesty and straightforwardness while in other places, it is seen as challenging and rude. Most people in Arab cultures usually show a great deal of eye contact and sometimes regard tool ittle as disrespectful. Aside from that, in English culture, a certain amount of eye contact is required, but too much really will make people uncomfortable. As such, most English people make eye contact at the beginning and then let their eyes drift to the side periodicaly to avoid the other person. In South Asian and many other cultures, direct eye contact is generally regarded as aggressive and rude.
Lastly, we will deal with nonverbal cues with respect to the listener in a conversation or communication process. Listening includes active listening which is an effective way of communicating. It is a process of listening, clarifying, self-disclosing, giving personal opinion and feedback. Active listening involves the participation of both parties in verbal and non-verbal ways. And since we are dealing with nonverbal cues, we will stick to that topic.
A listener should make sure to look at the speaker in the face most of the time especially in his eyes. Not looking in th eye of the speaker will make him think that you are bored, withdrawn, or siply not listening to the speech. But in line with these, we must be culturally sensitive for the reason that other people feel uncomfortable with too much eye contact. Aside from that, a listener should sit or stand in a comfortable position with the body aimed in the general area where the speaker is. The listener should try to be in a relaxed position facing the speaker making appropriate eye contact. Most importantly, a listener should beware of other nonverbal cues such as placement of arms, leaning forward when necessary, head nodding, degree of personal space and smiling.
A report will tell us that senior officers of major North American corporations spend up to 80 per cent of their working time in discussions, seminars, meetings, face-to-face conversations and even telephone conversations. And most employees spend about 60 per cent of the workday listening.
In listening skills, Americans tend to make direct eye contact when they want toshow attentiveness while listening to a person. Asian people usually consider silence as a sign of politeness and of contemplation. Most likely, during conversations, they are very careful about interrupting. In China, silence is perfectly acceptable and customary as they tend to listen carefully. Finally, in Korea, periods of silence are common and accepted even during dinners.
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