Cultural differences in nonverbal communication

The different ways of expressing nonverbal communication become pronounced especially in a multicultural context. Different cultures have different ways of expressing themselves nonverbally. However, it is worth noting that there are nonverbal communication ways which are similar across the board. One unique feature about nonverbal communication is that forms of expression used in a culture to express a particular message may not express the same message if used in another culture. Nonverbal communication forms can therefore be said to be the same across the board, but the ways they are used differs a great deal and hence the messages they communicate differ a great deal depending on how and where they are used. Because of these fundamental differences across the board, it therefore becomes possible for subjects to communicate different messages when using nonverbal communication forms in a multicultural context without their knowledge. This leads to a breakdown of communication and emergence of conflicts. This is the subject of this research paper. The paper will make a detailed discussion of cultural differences in nonverbal communication. NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION A clear understanding of nonverbal communication is essential for a proper discussion of the objective of this paper. According to Martin and Friedman, nonverbal communication is a way of passing messages or/and emotions without using words. Ways in which verbal communication is expressed include “facial expression, gestures, gaze, touch and vocal cues” (Martin and Friedman 3). Davis describes nonverbal communication with more features and includes actions such as “rolling your eyes, how you look at someone, your posture, whether you move your hands, how close you stand, the tone of your voice and the speed at which you speak” (233). In the views of Prinsen and Punyanunt-Carter, nonverbal communication also includes touching and eye contact. Basically, it can be argued that nonverbal communication makes use of body organs to communicate. The manner in which the body organs are twisted or moved or altered can communicate differently. These movements of body organs are numerous and all of them cannot be mentioned in this paper. This is especially the case when different cultures are involved. Martin and Friedman argue that nonverbal communication is quite essential especially where “verbal communications are untrustworthy, ambiguous or otherwise difficult to interpret” (Martin and Friedman 3). Topan shares the same views and adds that nonverbal communication is more important than verbal communication. He argues that this is because “up to 93 percent of all communication takes place at a nonverbal and paraverbal level” (Topan 132). Davis equally concurs by saying nonverbal communication has more effect than words (233). Nonverbal communication has clearly been ranked top as the best means of true expression. Indeed, Topan argues that people will choose to take the message they see in place of the one they hear (136). This simply means if there is a contradiction between what one is saying verbally and nonverbally, then the message communicated nonverbally is taken as the actually intended message that is being communicated. With a good understanding of what nonverbal communication is and even more importantly its significance, it is therefore necessary to examine how different cultures express themselves nonverbally. At this point, it is