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Unit 6
Non-verbal Communication
By the end of this unit, you should be able to:
• Tell what non-verbal communication is and what
purposes it serves
• Express puzzlement
• Explain roles for using gestures in cross-cultural
• Describe various emotions revealed in facial
• Describe rules governing eye contact
• Describe rules governing proximity and contact
• Gain an awareness that successful crosscultural communication depends not only on what
we say and the manner in which we say it, but also
on the behavior we display
What is non-verbal communication?
• Nonverbal communication will be defined as
the process by which nonverbal behaviors are
used, either singly or in combination with
verbal behaviors, in the exchange and
interpretation of messages within a given
situation or context. (L. A. Malandro, 1983)
Classifications of non-verbal
communication :
• body Language: posture, head movement, facial
expressions, eye behavior, gestures, handshaking,
arm movement, leg movement etc.
• paralanguage: sound, pitch, tempo of speech, turntaking, silence
• object language: clothing, personal artifacts, hair,
• environmental language: time language, spatial
language, color, light, signs and symbols,
architecture, etc.
• Gestures are an important component of nonverbal communication. This is mainly a matter
of how we use our hands to convey a message.
The language of the hands differs from
country to country and a gesture which
means one thing in one country may well mean
something quite different to those living in
1. the ring gesture
In America/Britain, it means sth. is good;
In Latin America it is used as an insult;
In Japan it means money;
In France it means zero or worthless;
In Tunisia: “I’ll kill you.”
2.The thumbs-up sign
• In Britain it means sth.
is good and it is also
used as a sign for
• In Greece / Sardinia
it is an insult.
3. the single finger beckon
• In America it simply means: come here.
• In Yugoslavia and Malaysia it is only
used for beckoning animals.
• In Indonesia and Australia it is used for
beckoning prostitutes. i.e., ladies for the
4. the eyelid-pull
• In France and Greece it means: see my eye!
• In England: don’t you think I can see it?
You can’t fool me.
• In Spain and Italy it is also related to be
• In South America it means you find a
woman very attractive.
5. The ear-tug
• In Spain it means someone
is a sponger, i.e. Using
other people’s money and
never spending his own;
• In Greece it is a warning;
• In Malta it says someone
is a sneak;
• In Italy it is used to call
someone a homosexual.
6.The V-sign
• palm to others:
• In England: peace &victory;
• In Greece: hold up the palm
to someone’s face means
• palm to yourself:
• In England transforms the
meaning of insult.
Facial Expressions
full and open emotional
full and open expression of a
number of different
emotions is likely to be held
in check
willingness to disclose personal imposing one’s feeling on
thoughts and feelings openly
others threatens the
maintenance of social
harmony; displaying anger is
much less acceptable among
the Japanese
define themselves are
different from, rather than
similar to others
emphasize on consisting with
other oriental cultures, open
displays of joy or sadness is
frowned upon
Eye Contact
Eye contact is an important aspect of body
language. One could draw up quite rules
about eye contact: to look or not to look,
when to look and how long to look, who ant
who not to look at, etc. And these rules
vary from culture to culture.
the rule for
dealing with
strangers is
that you must
avoid staring
at them but at
the same time
avoid ignoring
those who are
communicating with
one another demands
eye contact. Not
looking at the person
could imply a number
of things (fear, guilt…)
eye movements
in conversation
means of
ordering turn
Staring at people is
considered rude;
young children will be
reprimanded by their
parents if they look
too long and too
intensely at another
Puerto Rico
straight in
the eye is well
someone to
fail to meet
the eye of
accusing them
of something
is taken as a
sign of
it is
l for a child
to meet the
eye of an
Body distance
intimate distance
ranging from direct contact to about
45cm, which applies to the closest
relationships such as husband and wife
personal distance
ranging from 45 to 80cm, which is usually
maintained for conversations between
friends & relatives
social distance
ranging from 1.3to 2 meters, which covers
people who work together or are meeting
at social gatherings
public distance
such as that kept between a lecturer and
his audience
Body distance
Case study
• Please analyze the case on Page 240.
It is showing the different meaning
of the gesture for beckoning
someone in China and America. Sun
Yan suddenly felt uncomfortable with
her boss because of the beckoning
The mistake
• The gesture for beckoning someone in
China is that the hand is extended toward
the person, palm open facing down, with all
fingers crooked in a beckoning motion. The
gesture used by Mr. Black is one that is
acceptable as a way of beckoning in his
culture, whereas in China many would
regard the gesture as impolite or improper.
Gestures can mean different things in
different culture.
• Time to review, but before you do let me teach
you one more thing about non-verbal
communication. It has to do with the gesture the
English use to wish good luck to one another or
even to themselves. They do this by crossing the
middle finger over the index finger of the same
hand. Try it. That's fight. Now you'll have good
luck with mastering what you have learned! I hope
so. In fact I'm keeping my fingers crossed for
you, too!
Case analysis:
Bill had just arrived from the United States to
study engineering at a Chinese university. In the
first few days he met and moved in with his
roommate Zemin. over the next few days he
noticed that female students on campus
frequently walked arm-in-arm or even holding
hands .He noticed, too, that students of both
sexes, but especially the boys, would huddle
around newspaper displays in a fashion of close
contact. Bill felt rather uncomfortable and
wondered how he would respond if one of his
classmates were to put his arms around him…
Question: why does Bill feel uncomfortable?
The Key to the Question:
• He felt uncomfortable because of people
are less concerned than Americans to
maintain an invisible private zone around
their bodies which others may not cross.
The students of both sex walked arm-inarm and huddled is much more acceptable
in China than in America.