- Students will be able to identify the difference between verbal and nonverbal behaviors
- Students will be able to give examples of the ways we communicate differently based on our cultural and/or social upbringings
- Students will understand the many ways miscommunication can occur
- Teacher may want to have specific examples of cross-cultural communication based on the ethnicity, race and gender of the students in their classroom
7% are the words we speak
38% are our tone, volume, inflection and intonation
55% is nonverbal
Verbal communication is defined as spoken communication, including the use of words and intonation to convey meaning.
Nonverbal communication, on the other hand, is "silent" communication and includes the use of gestures, postures, position, eye contact, facial expressions and conversational distance.
If we don't understand the nonverbal communication from another culture, we can "read" another person incorrectly. Some forms of nonverbal communication are the same and universal, but others have different meanings, or no meaning, in another culture.
There are three kinds of nonverbal communication in a multicultural context:
1. Nonverbal behaviors that exist in all cultures, but which are assigned different meanings in various cultures.
2. Nonverbal behaviors that exist in some cultures, but which are assigned different meanings within respective cultures.
3. Nonverbal behaviors that have meaning in one culture but no meaning at all in other cultures.
The following are examples of nonverbal gestures that have the same and different meaning in the United States and other countries:
- Smiling: When we are happy, we usually smile. Smiling is typically an expression of pleasure. It can show affection and politeness. But it depends on the situation and the relationships. A woman smiling at a police officer doesn't carry the same message as when she smiles at a child. In Indonesian cultures, smiling is also used to cover emotional pain or embarrassment. Thus, an Indonesian student who does something wrong at school might smile to cover up their embarrassment.
- Frown: When we are sad or angry, we frown, scowl or even cry. In Iranian culture, people may express grief openly by mourning out loud. People in China, Japan and Indonesia, are more subdued when they are sad.
- The "OK" Gesture: In the United States and in many English-speaking countries, the "OK" gesture can mean that everything's fine. In France it can mean zero or nothing. In Japan it can mean "money."
The point of these three examples is that there are many ways to interpret a single nonverbal gesture.
Step One: Have students pair up and act out the following situations by using only body language:
- You can not hear your friend's voice
- You want a child to come to your side
- You want to wish your friend good luck from across the room
- You don't know the answer to a question someone has asked you
- You want to tell someone sitting close to you that class is boring
- You want to signal to your friend that the person you are talking to on the phone talks too much
- You want to express, "Oh, not again!"
- You want to tell your friend that you have just forgotten something
- You want to tell your friend to wait a second
- You want to tell your friend to slow down
- You want to tell your friend that everything is OK
Step Two: There are so many ways to miscommunicate with each other. What do we do? Here are a few sage pieces of advice:
- Suspend judgment. Don't be so quick to judge someone based on what they say or what their nonverbal communication says.
- Ask Questions. Collect more information from people. Easy questions to ask might include: "Tell me what you were thinking when you said that." "I was curious what you were feeling when you said that."
- Think of a time when you upset a friend because of an email or text message. Given what you now know about complete communication - verbal and not - why might emails and instant messenger be less-than-ideal ways to communicate?