The Effect Of Culture On Verbal And Non-Verbal Communication

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Language is a system of communicating with other people using sounds, symbols and words in expressing an idea/thought. Language can be used in many forms, primarily through oral and written communications as well as using expressions through body language. The culture in which people socialize influences the way they communicate and the way they communicate can change their culture. Culture provides people somewhat of a guideline on how to behave and how they view themselves. When it comes to communication there are many things that can affect a conversation, body language such as looking away from someone while they talk to you is a form of non-verbal communication. Other forms of nonverbal communication could be the tone that people are talking in along with subtle facial expression changes. These changes can be viewed as negative or positive. To be successful in communication in another country you must learn their language and customs.

Verbal Communication takes up a small portion of a full conversation, movement or body language, which is called non-verbal communication, makes up the larger part. The reason people use body language and movements is to enhance what they are saying/conveying to the other person or persons’. Culture affects the way people communicate non-verbally in other countries along with the different languages throughout the world. Learning proper cross culture communication is important so as not to offend others. Misinterpretations are very easy to avoid if you are not ignorant of the native culture, you do not want people to misjudge good intentions. A specific culture expects a certain standard in communication. For example, shaking hands in America is usually done with the right hand, but in some countries that is disrespectful because you wipe with your dominate hand, which most of the world is right hand dominate. This small example illustrates the cultural communication style between two different cultures.

It has been widely accepted that the relationship between culture and language are intertwined. Language is a major part of a culture and plays a major role in it. Language can influence a culture by affecting the people’s perception and thought patterns, although language is also shaped by the culture. The way people speak, the structure of the language, and other factors are influenced by culture. Culture can affect many aspects, such as facial expressions, the way people interpret a smile would be different in the United States versus Japan. While showing a smile in the United States can show a person is friendly or approachable, in Japan people are expected to not smile at strangers as it is inappropriate especially for women. The way people make eye contact in some cultures shows that they are being honest while if you do not make eye contact you are seen as untruthful, other cultures see eye contact as a sign of aggression. Using informal speech can also be seen as being disrespectful while in other countries it is the norm to speak a certain way to everyone. Contact culture is a type of culture that people are expected to be close or touch one another while having a conversation, although other cultures it can be seen as being pushy.

High-context cultures (Latin America, Africa, Arab and Asian) are very meticulous when it comes to legal documents, which means they can be understood using context or verbal cues or understanding what is not being said like body language and pauses and silences in a conversation. Low-context cultures such as Germany and most English-speaking cultures, expect it to be specific and explicit which is to say they like to have precise spoken and written words. People in individualistic societies like the United States tend to hold individual rights such as freedom, privacy, and autonomy in higher regard. People in these types of cultures tend to see themselves as unique and are free to speak their thoughts, emotions, and opinions. Tending to value equality as well as independence and an individuals’ responsibility and inner motivation. On the other hand, collective societies such as Asia, Middle east, and Latin America, view themselves as part of a larger social network. This means they like to emphasize their obligations they have toward the larger network over their individual needs and desires for the benefit of the group. People in these types of cultures have a sense of belonging when they fit in with a larger group, they also are likely to see expressing one’s thoughts, emotions, and opinions as immature without thinking of how it will impact others.

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High power distant societies such as Latin America, Africa, and Mediterranean countries, accept that power is an important aspect in their society. Having a hierarchy as well as power inequality are seen as being beneficial. Superiors are expected to take care of their subordinates, in return they show obedience and loyalty to their seniors, this can also be described as a culture in the military. Higher people in power often take precedence in eating, walking, and speaking over their juniors as to show respect. In these cultures, people with lower power refrain from speaking out of turn or expressing their opinions and emotions. These are just some aspects of the different cultures in the world and how they view different aspects on communication and what they expect from the people.

There are also masculine cultures which value achievements, ambition, assertiveness and power, over the value of compassion and quality of life. These types of cultures commonly have gender roles that separates men and women into different roles of society. The men are expected to be assertive and tough whereas the women are expected to be more tender and focus on improving the quality of life for the family. Other cultures, like Scandinavian, roles are more fluid or flexible. Men and woman are not forced into certain roles by their culture and the different values as stated before can be embraced by both men and women.

Culture can give rise to prejudices, ethnocentrism and a difference in manners and opinions. This can cause conflict or barriers when people from two different cultures try and communicate with one another. Non-verbal communication such as gestures and symbols can also vary from culture to culture. Giving the ‘thumbs up’ sign can be shown as a sign of approval and wishing luck in most cultures but in Bangladesh it is seen as an insult. Which means this type cannot always be relied upon and you should always research what is acceptable when you visit another country. Stereotyping can be done based on gender, race, religion, and ethnicity. Some of these can be viewed as positive or negative. One common stereotype is that students in Asian countries are good at math. The culture in Asian countries likes to emphasize the importance on schooling and grades which in turn makes the people of that culture try to excel in that aspect. This has given birth to that well-known stereotype.

People create assumptions and form decisions based on one’s cultural upbringing, to effectively communicate between other cultures one must learn a few key points. Firstly, keeping an open mind when you communicate with someone else. The differences between cultures can be vast and often people will accidentally do something others see as inappropriate. Second, having some knowledge on another’s cultural background, this can mean if you work with someone from a different culture or when you go to another part of the world. Since culture affects people’s behavior and values, it is important to know the differences especially in a work environment.

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