Communication Multicultural Competency: Verbal and Non Verbal

Multicultural Competency:
Verbal and Non Verbal
Verbal Communication
Language & Culture:
The Essential Partnership
“If we spoke a different language, we would
perceive a different world” (Wittgenstein).
“Language is the roadmap of a culture. It tells you
where its people came from and where they are
going” (Brown).
How would we communicate without words?
(There are over 6,000 languages!)
Verbal Communication
Language & Culture:
The Essential Partnership
What is language?
Language is a set of shared symbols or
signs that a cooperative groups of people
has mutually agreed to use to create
Verbal Communication
Language & Culture:
The Essential Partnership
Language Reflects Cultural Values:
•High and Low Power Distance (formal/informal)
•Individualism and Collectivism
• High and Low Context
Nonverbal Communication
(The Silent Language):
Messages of Action, Space,
Time and Silence
• Usually responsible for first impressions
• Doesn’t lie (a clenched jaw shows you’re
angry or stammering speech shows that
you’re nervous)
• Is culturally bound
Two General Classifications
1. Those primarily produced by the body
(appearance, movement, facial expression,
eye contact, touch, smell, and paralanguage)
•2. Those combined with setting (space, time and
There is a story about the presidential debate of Nixon and Kennedy in
1960 where people listening via radio awarded the victory to Nixon while
those watching the debate on television awarded the victory to Kennedy.
This was explained by the fact that though President Nixon had very
persuasive words during the debate, he was tense, sweating and seemed
quite uncomfortable. On the other hand, President Kennedy was relaxed
and able to convey a positive and convincing body language during the
debate. Since that incident, researchers have demonstrated that a
message is perceived in 3 different ways:
Body Language (kinesics) -are the physical cues that are visible and send
a message about 1) your attitude toward the
other person, 2) your emotional state, 3) your
relationship with the environment
includes body posture, body motion, gestures,
facial expressions, eye contact.
Kinesics: Eye Contact
In American culture, we reveal whom we like and dislike just by the amount
that we look at them. We generally look most at those whom we like . In
general, people avoid looking at someone they don’t like.
As people increase their liking for one another, they increase the amount
of mutual gazing that they do. (Mutual gaze is when two people are looking
into each other's eyes). The most obvious example of this occurs along the
continuum of relationships. Romantic relationships have the highest
amount of mutual gaze.
What about other cultures?
Sense of Touch: Haptics
Who can touch whom, where, when and how
Touch is culturally determined – who can you
Physical Appearance:
Body artifacts (clothing, piercings, tattoos) and
In what ways do you dress that reflect your
cultural values?
Environmental Factors
Elements of setting that affect how we feel
and act (color, temperature, lighting, room
How are your personal spaces designed
to reflect your cultural values?
Space and Distance: Proxemics
•Personal space (intimate, personal, social
and public
•Furniture arranging
Time (chronemics)
•Informal time (how late is “late”?)
•Perceptions of past, present and future
•Monochronic (fixed) and polychronic (holistic
time) (Edward T. Hall)
Paralanguage: are the sounds that don’t have
written form that modify meaning or convey emotion.
Includes: rate, sounds, murmurs, gasps, volume,
pitch, inflection, laughing, high speed
Silence : East vs. West
“What is real is, and when it is spoken it
becomes unreal.” (Buddhism)
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
(American saying)
Elements of the environment that
communicate by virtue of people’s use of
Communication Competency
To be a competent intercultural communicator,
one must be able to analyze the situation and
select the correct mode of behavior.
Effective communicators are those who are
1) motivated 2) have a fund of knowledge to
draw upon and 3) possess certain
communication skills.
Multicultural Communication Competency
• Know Yourself -- know your culture, (yes,
whiteness is a culture), know your
perceptions (attitudes, prejudices, and
opinions), know how you act out those
perceptions, and monitor yourself as a
communicator (how do I communicate and
how do others perceive me?).
• Learn your communication style.
Multicultural Communication Competency
• Develop Empathy-- we are imaginatively placing
ourselves in the dissimilar world of another.
• Hindrances to empathy: constant self focus,
stereotyped notions, defensive behavior.
Improving empathy: pay attention, communicate
empathy, use culturally accepted behaviors,
avoid ethnocentric responses.
Multicultural Communication Competency
– Develop Communication Flexibility -- "become
more like a willow than an oak tree“
– Learn to Tolerate Ambiguity -- delay a
decision on how to approach a new person or
situation until as much information as possible
has been gained by observation. Use trial and
error rather than the same formula each time.
Multicultural Communication Competency
Learn to Manage Conflict -- Conflict usually
happens because participants perceive
incompatible goals or threats to their ego.
When you add culture, it becomes even more
complex. How we respond to conflict is
culturally determined.
Learn About Cultural Adaptation -- acquire
knowledge about the host culture and
increase contact with the host culture
Multicultural Communication Competency
“The communicator cannot stop at knowing the
people he is working with have different
customs, goals, and thought patterns from his
own. He must be able to feel his way into
intimate contact with these alien values,
attitudes and feelings. He must be able to work
with them and within them, neither losing his
own values in the confrontation nor protecting
himself behind a wall of intellectual detachment”
(Roger Harrison, 1966)