Recognise unspoken communication
Body language, in the form of facial expression and tone of voice, accounts for a far greater proportion of total communication than the words you speak. If your body language contradicts your words, people will believe your body language. Try saying “I’m delighted to see you” while adopting a slouched posture and mournful tone, and see what reaction you get!
To understand unspoken communication
- Avoid assumptions.
- Interpret body language carefully.
Research by Albert Mehrabian indicates that the words we speak account for only 8% of the message we send. Facial expression and tone of voice have a far greater impact.
Mexicans use a double surname—their father’s family name followed by their mother’s.
People of other cultures diverge from us substantially in their attitudes toward time, the environment, individualism, communication, power, achievement, and thinking styles. Yet we tend to interpret their behavior according to our cultural assumptions. Identifying your assumptions and attitudes will help you recognize when you are judging someone from another culture inappropriately
Interpret Body Language Carefully
Unspoken communication is shaped by the communicator’s cultural norms, so it’s risky to interpret it according to your own. When interpreting body language, keep in mind that people of various cultures differ in the amount of personal space they require, the extent to which they express themselves with their facial expressions and gestures, how comfortable they feel in making eye contact with others, and how they interpret what we would consider ordinary movements of the hands and feet
People have a sense of personal space and feel uncomfortable if someone invades it. This sense of space varies from culture to culture. Generally, Americans regard arm’s length as a comfortable casual space – I’ve seen it described as the distance between you and someone else if you were to stretch out your arm and put your finger in his ear! Any closer and you intrude on intimate space. Latin Europeans, Latin Americans, and many Middle Eastern people are happy with a smaller space. So they approach you to talk, but you feel too close and back off
Facial Expressions and Gestures
The extent to which we express ourselves with our faces and gestures varies enormously. We all do it, but sometimes it’s so subtle outsiders to the culture cannot read it. To American eyes, the Japanese and the Finns are very inexpressive, while Mediterranean people, Arabs, South and Central Americans illustrate their speech with exaggerated gestures and facial expression
Movements of the Hands and Feet
Don’t show the soles of your feet to, or point your feet toward, people of Arab and oriental countries. Also, be aware that the left hand is regarded as unclean in some cultures and use caution when eating with your hands.