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Nonverbal Intercultural Communication Characteristics of Nonverbal Codes Whereas verbal codes are language-based, nonverbal codes are not. Nonverbal communication is a multichanneled process that is usually performed spontaneously; it typically involves a subtle set of nonlinguistic behaviors that are often enacted subconsciously. Although nonverbal and verbal codes are discussed separately, they are inseparably linked together. Characteristics of Nonverbal Codes Nonverbal messages function as a “silent language” and impart meanings in subtle ways. Most nonverbal messages are continuous and natural, and they tend to blur together. Unlike verbal communication systems, there are no dictionaries or formal sets of rules to provide a systemic list of the meanings of a culture’s nonverbal code systems. Nonverbal messages are less precise than verbal codes. Relationship of nonverbal communication to verbal communication Nonverbal messages are often used to accent the verbal message. Nonverbal messages can complement verbal messages. Nonverbal messages can contradict the verbal message. Nonverbal messages help regulate the interaction controlling the back-and forth sequencing of conversations. Nonverbal messages can serve as a substitute for a verbal channel when communicators simply use a nonverbal movement to communicate something instead of using language. Cultural Universals in Nonverbal Communication Across cultures, the same body parts are used for nonverbal expressions. Nonverbal channels are used to convey similar information, emotions, values, norms, and selfdisclosing messages. Nonverbal messages accompany verbal communication and are used in art and ritual. The motives for using the nonverbal channel, such as when speech is impossible, are similar across cultures. Nonverbal messages are used to coordinate and control a range of contexts and relationships that are similar across cultures. Cultural Variations in Nonverbal Communication Nonverbal communication must be interpreted in the context or framework of the culture in which it occurs. ◦ Cultures differ in the specific repertoire of behaviors that are enacted. ◦ Cultures have unique sets of display rules that govern when and under what circumstances particular nonverbal expressions are required, preferred, permitted, or prohibited. (distance while talking, whom to touch & where, eye contact, loudness & quietness, smiling & frowning, etc.) ◦ Cultures vary in the interpretations or meanings that are attributed to particular nonverbal behaviors. Nonverbal repertoires, their corresponding display rules, and their preferred interpretations are not taught verbally, but they are learned through direct observation and personal experience in a culture. Nonverbal Functions In Intercultural Communication Nonverbal codes can be used to fulfill five interrelated functions. ◦ They provide information. ◦ They manage impressions of oneself and others. ◦ They express emotions. ◦ They regulate interactions such as sequencing during conversations. ◦ They convey relationship messages. Nonverbal Messages in Intercultural Communication Physical appearance Environment Body movement (kinesics) Space (proxemics) Touch (haptics) Voice (vocalics) Time (chronemics) Nonverbal Messages in Intercultural Communication Physical appearance ◦ Body characteristics are relatively permanent stable features that are regarded as an inherent part of that person. ◦ Other aspects of one’s physical appearance involve body modifications such as piercings, tattoos, and cosmetic procedures that are also relatively permanent. ◦ Finally, some aspects of one’s physical appearance can and usually do change from one situation to another, but they usually don’t change within a specific interaction. Nonverbal Messages in Intercultural Communication Environment ◦ The environment encompasses the physical features or characteristics of our surroundings. ◦ Formality refers to the heightened sense of decorum and politeness that some environments seem to require. ◦ Warmth refers not to the physical temperature of the setting but to the emotional tone conveyed by the environment. ◦ Privacy refers to the degree to which the environment allows you to be surrounded by others or isolated from those who might learn what you are saying and doing. Nonverbal Messages in Intercultural Communication Environment ◦ The dimension of familiarity describes the degree to which the environment is well known and therefore predictable to you, or strange and unpredictable to you. ◦ Constraint refers to your perception of the extent to which you feel “stuck” in a particular environment or free to leave it. ◦ Distance refers to the spatial arrangements of the environment (how far away is the door? Ppl/room size ratio?) Nonverbal Messages in Intercultural Communication Body movements (kinesics) ◦ Emblems are nonverbal behaviors that have a direct verbal counterpart ◦ Illustrators are nonverbal behaviors that are directly tied to the verbal message. ◦ Affect displays are facial and body movements that show feelings and emotions. ◦ Regulators are nonverbal behaviors that help control the flow and sequencing of communication. ◦ Adaptors are personal body movements that occur as a reaction to an individual’s physical or psychological state. Nonverbal Messages in Intercultural Communication Space (proxemics) ◦ Cultural differences in the use of personal space exist. One needs to develop an awareness of cultural differences in the use of space. Cultures differ in their use of intimate, personal, social, and public space. ◦ Cultural differences in territoriality exist and can seriously affect communication. The need to protect and defend a particular spatial area is known as territoriality, a set of behaviors that people display to show that they “own” or have the right to control the use of a particular geographical area. Nonverbal Messages in Intercultural Communication Touch ◦ It is one of the most fundamental parts of the human experience. ◦ Touch can express positive and/or negative feelings, indicate playfulness, establish control and social dominance, and be used to accomplish tasks. ◦ Cultural differences in touch can lead to difficulties in intercultural communication. ◦ Cultures can differ in the amount of touching, where people can be touched, who can touch whom, and in the settings or occasions touch is acceptable. Nonverbal Messages in Intercultural Communication Voice (vocalics) ◦ The many qualities of the voice, in addition to the actual meaning of the words, form the vocalic nonverbal communication system. ◦ Vocalic qualities include pitch, rate of talking, conversational rhythm, and volume. ◦ Vocalics convey meanings beyond the words that are spoken. Nonverbal Messages in Intercultural Communication Time (chronemics) ◦ Time orientation refers to the value or importance placed on the passage of time by members of a culture. ◦ Past-oriented, Present-oriented, Future-oriented ◦ Time systems are the implicit cultural rules that are used to arrange sets of experiences in some meaningful way. ◦ Perhaps the most important aspect of a culture’s informal time system is the degree to which it is monochronic or polychronic. Chronics Monochronic time system: things should be done one at a time. Time is segmented into precise, small units. Time is a commodity; it is scheduled, managed, and arranged. Polychronic time system: several things are done at the same time. Relationships are more important than schedules. Appointments quickly broken, deadlines unmet if friends need attention, schedule multiple appointments simultaneously. Nonverbal Communication and Intercultural Competence The rules and norms that govern most nonverbal communication behaviors are both culture-specific and learned unconsciously. Monitoring one’s emotional reactions to differences in nonverbal behaviors alerts a person to the interpretations he or she is making and therefore to the possibility of alternative meanings. A person should observe general tendencies in the nonverbal behavior of culturally different people. Looking for exceptions to general tendencies observed allows one to recognize that no one individual will fit exactly the cultural generalization formed. One can practice the ability to observe, evaluate, and behave in effective ways during intercultural encounters. What are some examples of cultural universals? Can you think of examples from your personal experiences that either confirm or contradict the idea of cultural universals? It is widely believed by many that “a smile is universally understood.” Do you agree with this statement? We know that cultures use and value time differently. What kinds of judgments might be made of those who use time differently from the ways that your culture does?