Five Mistakes People Make Reading Your Body Language

Those are typical  mistakes people make all the time especially in a multicultural context.

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For example while I was working in Japan,  looking straight in the eyes of a Japanese business person would be considered as very impolite and aggressive.

It was also common to interpret  Japanese closing eyes during meetings as sleeping which might be true, but in most cases the person was concentrating on the English words.

It is  only by working and living  in a country long enough that you can get clues of culture-driven body language. On top there are also regional and individual specific body gestures.

Salutations are really cultural. For example  Americans will hug you even in business setting which can be embarrassing  for  Japanese who don’t touch and bow. The level of bowing is based on seniority the younger you are the lower you have to bow! In Europe kisses on the cheeks are common even at work and between same gender, two kisses in the south of France but 4  kisses for Parisians!

P.S. On Linkedin group: Linked:HR (#1 Human Resources Group) there is a discussion on body language  in interviews started by Shrradha Parekh and this video was submitted by Allison Dolan .



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5 thoughts on “Five Mistakes People Make Reading Your Body Language

  1. Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach March 7, 2011 at 10:40 pm Reply

    Additional resource about ‘Reading’ Other People’s Emotions Varies by #Culture:

  2. J. Scott Shipman March 7, 2011 at 10:57 pm Reply

    Anne, Excellent post! Your note to Elena is well taken; the old saw 80% of all communications is non-verbal doesn’t have an peer-reviewed reference (that I can find). All that to say, body language and a thorough understanding is vital wherever one works. Many thanks for sharing!
    Cordially, Scott

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach March 9, 2011 at 8:07 pm Reply

      Thanks Scott for your comment. There is so much to learn about intercultural communication. This skill is highly in demand for global executives

  3. FutureExpat March 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm Reply

    It’s interesting, I’ve recently become fascinated with the US TV show “Lie to Me.” While the “deception experts” at the Lightman Group are very quick to jump all over the universal facial expressions — anger, contempt, etc. — they’re very careful with body language to make sure they understand the context. I hadn’t thought about it until just seeing this video.

    My takeaway on this is, as expats we need to arm ourselves with information in advance and then be hyper-observant of how people behave in the new culture.

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach March 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm Reply

      Susana, you are right not assuming anything or judging and asking questions to clarify the messages are the best ways to communicate effectively with people from different cultures or not.

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