Communication between cultures

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Expressing internal states

People use nonverbal cues (posture, face, and eyes) to define the social and emotional nature of their relationships and interactions.

  • Creating identity

Identities are drawn from a variety of messages, based on skin color, use of makeup, facial expression, manner of dress, accent, jewelry, and even the type of handshake offered.

Actions communicate to your partner “when to begin a conversation, whose turn it is to speak, how to get a chance to speak, how to signal others to talk more, and how to end a conversation.”

  • Repeating the message

The gestures and the words you use have similar meanings and reinforce one another.

  • Substituting for words

An action is replacing a verbal utterance and that action becomes the language.

  1. Problems and misconceptions

  • Nonverbal communication can be ambiguous

Different situations or environments produce different nonverbal messages.

  • Multiple factors influence nonverbal communication

Not everyone in a particular culture engages in the same nonverbal actions, so interpretations of nonverbal behaviors must be carefully evaluated before generalizations can be made.

  • The study of nonverbal communication includes cultural universals

There are many similarities in how cultures employ this communication system.

  1. Nonverbal communication and culture

Your culture has taught you what nonverbal actions to display (crying or laughing), the meaning of those actions (sadness or happiness), and the contextual backdrop of those actions (funeral or wedding).

  1. Classifications of nonverbal communication

Most classifications divide nonverbal messages into two comprehensive categories: those that are primarily produced by the body (appearance, movement, facial expressions, eye contact, touch, and paralanguage), and those that the individual combines with the setting (space, time, and silence).

  • Appearance

+ Judgement of beauty:
What is seen as beautiful in one culture may look hideous to people from another culture.
+ Skin color:
Members of a culture are judged by their skin tone.
+ Attire:
Clothing can be used to convey economic status, education, social status, moral standards, athletic ability and/or interests, belief system (political, philosophical, religious), and levels of sophistication.

  • Body movement

Culture teaches them how to use and interpret the movements.
+ Posture:
Posture can indicate whether or not people are paying attention, the degree of status in the encounter, if people like or dislike each other, feelings of submissiveness, and even sexual intentions.
+ Gestures:
Gestures are a nonverbal “vocabulary” that people use, both intentionally and unintentionally, to share their internal states: idiosyncratic gestures, beckoning gestures, agreement gestures, frequency and intensity of gestures.

  • Facial expressions

Cultural expectations and norms often dictate when, where, how, and to whom facial expressions are displayed.

  • Eye contact and gaze

First, eyes express emotions, monitor feedback, indicate degrees of attentiveness and interest, regulate the flow of the conversation, influence changes in attitude, define power and status relationships, and help modify impression management. Second, eyes are significant to the communication process because of the number of messages they can send.

  • Touch

Each culture defines who can touch whom, on what parts of the body, and under what circumstances.

  • Paralanguage

+ Most classifications divide paralanguage into three categories: (1) vocal qualities, (2) vocal characterizers, and (3) vocal segregates.
+ Vocal qualities: volume, rate, pitch, tempo, resonance, pronunciation, tone.
+ Vocal characteristics: laughing, crying, moaning, whining, yawning.
+ Vocal segregates: “uh-huh,” “shh,” “uh,” “oooh,” “um,” “mmmh,” “hmmm”.

  • Space and distance

+ The study of this message system, called proxemics, is concerned with such things as (1) personal space, (2) seating, and (3) furniture arrangement.
+ The following four categories that demonstrate how space can communicate:
a. Intimate distance (actual contact to 18 inches) is normally reserved for very personal relationships. You can reach out and touch the person at this distance. Because of the closeness of the participants, voices are usually in the form of a whisper.
b. In personal distance (18 inches to 4 feet) there is little chance of physical contact, and you can speak in a normal voice. This is distance reserved for family and close friends.
c. Social distance (4 to 12 feet) is the distance at which most members of the dominant culture conduct business and take part in social gatherings.
d. Public distance is usually used in public presentations and can vary from relatively close to very far.
+ Seating arrangements send both inconspicuous and obvious messages.
+ The arrangement of furniture:

  1. Feng shui:

It stresses the need for people and nature to live in harmony.

  1. The arrangement of furniture in offices can also give you a clue to the character of a people.

  • Time:

+ Each culture teaches its people what is appropriate or inappropriate with regard to time.
+ To better recognize some contradictory ways of using time we will examine two cultural perspectives: (1) informal time and (2) monochronic and polychronic classifications.

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