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Chapter 8
Nonverbal Intercultural
Definition of Nonverbal Codes
• Nonverbal communication is a multichanneled process that is usually
performed spontaneously
• Nonverbal and verbal codes inseparably
linked together
Defining Nonverbal Codes
• Some characteristics of nonverbal codes
– Function as a “silent language”
– Continuous and natural
– No dictionaries or formal set of rules
– Less precise
• The relationship takes a variety of forms.
– Used to accent the verbal message
– Can compliment the verbal message
– Sometimes contradictory
– Help to regulate interactions
– Serve as a substitute for verbal messages
Cultural Universals in
Nonverbal Communication
• Some authors have identified what they
refer to as “cultural universals” of
nonverbal communication.
• Some examples of these nonverbal
universals include the shoulder shrug,
facial expressions, and the need to be
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
• Norms
• Intensity
• Differences cause discomfort and misinterpretation
Cultural Variations in
Nonverbal Communication
• Cultures vary in interpretation
– Behavior is random
– Idiosyncratic interpretations
– Shared interpretations
– Cultures differ in these aspects
• None of this is taught verbally-learned
through observation and experience
Nonverbal Messages in
ICC are Multichanneled
• Body movements (kinesics)
– Emblems
– Illustrators
• Emphasize, explain, and support
• Less arbitrary than emblems
– Affect displays
• Many universally recognized
• May be unconscious and unintentional
– Regulators
– Adapters
Nonverbal Messages in
ICC are Multichanneled
• Space (proxemics)
– Personal space
• Awareness of cultural use of space
• Intimate, personal, social, public space
– Territoriality
• Protect and defend
• Rage, invasions, and contaminations
Nonverbal Messages in
ICC are Multichanneled
• Touch (haptic)
– Express positive or negative feelings
– Cultures differences can lead to difficulties
– Differ in amount, where, whom, setting, etc.
Nonverbal Messages in
ICC are Multichanneled
• Time (chronemics)
– The value placed on the passage of time
• Past-oriented cultures
• Present-oriented cultures
• Future-oriented cultures
– They are implicit rules
• Technical time systems
• Formal time systems
• Informal time systems
Nonverbal Messages in
ICC are Multichanneled
• Time (chronemics)
– Informal time systems can be
• monochronic or
• Polychronic
– Because cultures differ in their time
orientations and in time systems they use to
give order to experiences, misinterpretations
often occur.
Nonverbal Messages in
ICC are Multichanneled
• Voice (vocalics)
– Can include:
Non-speech sounds
Filler sounds
– Convey meaning beyond words
Nonverbal Messages in
ICC are Multichanneled
• Other
– Chemical
– Dermal
– Physical
– Artifactual
Synchrony of Nonverbal
Communication Codes
Synchronized behaviors form patterns
They typify an expected response
Subtlety is clearly noticed
Behavior of all parties must match
Nonverbal Communication and
Intercultural Competence
• The rules and norms that govern most
nonverbal communication behaviors are
both culture-specific and learned
• 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.
Nonverbal Communication and
Intercultural Competence
• 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.