Cross-Cultural Non Verbal Communication


Jumping Group

Because we live in a shrinking global village, more and more people from different cultures are interacting with each other so  it is important to learn appropriate gestures and non verbal communication  to avoid conflicts or international  business negotiation failures.

Here two videos with great examples about Multicultural Manners in general and Multicultural Manners at Work

More than ever before,  multicultural companies and organizations need to be educated and trained to the subtleties of non verbal communication, including potentially powerful gestures and even silence. Nonverbal communication is determined by our sociocultural environment. Some cultural differences relate to body language, body space, body touch and paralanguage.

The 93%/7% rule

Many people affirm that human communication consists of 93 % of non-verbal behavior and paralanguage and only 7%  from words. I don’t say it is not true but most people who quote those numbers do not know where they come from.  It is Albert Mehrabian‘s work done in the 1960s that is the source of these statistics but he later stated that this is a misunderstanding of his findings ! It seems to me that more recent studies should be used as references in human communication in today’s trainings, presentations or articles.

In conclusion:

Although many people are aware of non verbal communication few scientific studies have been done in multicultural contexts. In many popular American shows, “experts” tell how to find signs that somebody is lying such as not looking straight in the eyes but what  might be valid in the US culture  may be considered very rude by people coming from other cultures.

In addition, with the global use of new technologies  like video cameras on PCs , SMS and  other mini blogging sites such as  Twitter,  research must be conducted on how those tools affect virtual  cross-cultural communication and what the impact of non face-to-face body language.

Related : Working across Cultures: the Challenges of Virtual Communication

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5 thoughts on “Cross-Cultural Non Verbal Communication

  1. Marian Thier March 11, 2011 at 8:00 pm Reply

    Anne, you make a very good case for NVC and how we can actually interpret and use them from one person to another.

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach March 14, 2011 at 10:53 am Reply

      Thanks Marian for your comment. NVC across-cultures remains a topic which has not been investigated extensively which is surprising in the era of globalization. Maybe it is too subjective to really get good data ?

  2. J. Scott Shipman March 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm Reply

    Hi Anne, Excellent post! Your work is interesting because you’re doing the international version of what I do within organizations. Awareness, or a lack thereof, is a big component even in the relative microcosm of a company. I’ve had a couple of clients, in leadership, who were not aware that their people were watching their body language and taking cues—they protested they were saying the right things, but their body language countered.

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach March 18, 2011 at 11:10 pm Reply

      Interesting comment. Body language is like Jazz, a lot of improvisation makes the same piece of music interpreted in so many subjective ways so you love it or your hate it but cannot ignore it. Emotional Intelligence is being able to perceive what others see or feel through their own filters.

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