Nonverbal Communication and Cultural Differences Essay

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Nonverbal communication has always played an important role in the entire communication process. It may include gestures, kinesics, haptics and other means, which a person incorporates into the communication process. These acts make the communication process more effective and meaningful. However, nonverbal communication is highly influenced by cultural differences as the context of the culture defines how the message is interpreted. This essay will analyse several types of nonverbal communication such as proxemics, haptics, kinesics, semiotics and paralinguistic. It will also analyse the messages conveyed by these nonverbal communication types in different cultures and their impact on the non-verbal communication process in relative cultural contexts.

Culture has always been a driving force in understanding nonverbal communication as nonverbal communication is highly influenced by the cultural differences as the context of the culture defines how the communication/message is interpreted in certain cultures. “Communication occurs within a context but the context is particularly important in relation to non-verbal communication” (Tyler, Kossen & Ryan, 2005, p.185). Culture defines the messages perceived by the non-verbal communication. For instance, proxemics. “Proxemics refers to the spatial relationship or how we use space.” (Tyler, Kossen & Ryan, 2005, p.190) Culture plays an important role in defining the use of one’s personal space in the nonverbal communication process. For example, in North America people usually remain at a distance from one another when talking while Latin American people stay very close when talking. (Wood, 2009). This defines the use of the privacy or personal space in two different cultures. However, this nonverbal communication mode will translate something different in an Arab culture; they usually stay very close while talking to one another, which is a gesture of friendship while keeping a distance is considered a gesture of an animosity and hatred. Social status also affects proxemics in different cultures; people of equal status sit close to each other than people of unequal status. Like, in Japan, people of equal rank sit close to each other, and in America, it is contrary. (Bonvillain, 1999)

Haptics, which is mode of nonverbal communication, involves communication through touch. Cultural context plays an imperative role in deciphering the nonverbal communication message conveyed. It is noted that people of Mediterranean, Middle eastern and Latin American employ much social touching in the conversation than the people of the North America and Northern Europe imparts less social touching which is limited to the hand shake, shoulder touch, and back slapping. While in some Asian countries like Japan, social touching is usually avoided due to the status and rank of the people. Henley (1977) says that relative power in a relationship is signalled by who touches and who is touched. In Philippines, people...

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