The Importance of Body Language in Cultures

The Importance of Body Language in Cultures

Overseas English Overseas English ISSN 1009-5039 [email protected] com 2011 2 http://www. overseaen. com Tel:+86-551-5690811 5690812 The Importance of Body Language in Cultures , ( , , 262700 ) Abstract:Communication is necessary to people’s daily life. Although we may not realize it when we talk with others, we make ourselves understood not only by words. Body language sometimes helps make the communication easy and effective. Body language is treated as equivalent to nonverbal communication which sends 65 percent communication message.

In order to improve the quality of our communication, we should pay more attention to nonverbal communication. In addition, culture influences communication. Different country has different culture. Every culture has its own body language. It is useful to learn more about such body language, especially the using of body language in different culture. Key words: communication; culture; body language; nonverbal communication :H319 :A :1009-5039(2011)02-0238-02

Body language is not language in the strict sense of the word language; it refers to, in fact, a broad term for forms of communication using body movements, gestures, facial expressions and eye behaviors in addition to sounds, verbal language, or other forms of communication. Some scholars treat body language as an equivalent to nonverbal communication. Although we may not realize it when we talk with others, we make ourselves understood not only by words. There are plenty of nonverbal communications around us everyday. In 1972, a research made by American linguists showed that only 35 ercent communication message is sent by verbal communication, while 65 percent is sent by nonverbal communication. It is obvious that nonverbal communication plays an important role in our communication. We can understand it well by some functions and different cultural instances of body language. 1 Functions of Nonverbal Communication Nonverbal communication can convey messages alone, and in many situations it is used in combination with verbal behaviors to convey meaning. It is useful, therefore, to examine the functions of nonverbal messages in relation to verbal messages in communication.

The six functions of nonverbal messages to be presented in the following paragraphs are complementing, contradicting, repeating, regulating, accenting, and substituting. 1) Complementing: some nonverbal messages are consistent with accompanying verbal messages, but add to or strengthen or clarify the meaning of the verbal message. 2) Contradicting: some nonverbal messages may contradict the verbal ones. 3) Repeating: nonverbal messages which serve the function of repeating the verbal messages are ones that could stand alone, if the verbal messages were not present. ) Regulating: communication involves more than one participant and nonverbal behaviors are often used to regulate the cooperative communication. 5) Accenting: nonverbal messages can be used to accent or emphasize distinct points in verbal messages. Pausing before saying something tends to make what will be said next, which appear more important to the other person. 6) Substituting: substitution occurs when nonverbal messages rather than verbal messages are sent. different culture. So the way people in different countries communicate is different too.

For example, Arab men often greet by kissing on both cheeks. In Japan men greet by bowing . In the Unite States, people shake hands to show “their greeting”. And the gesture of putting a hand on a person’ neck is different for Chinese and Americans. For Chinese, it is to say “someone will be killed”. For Americans, it shows “I’m full”. And in Thailand, if you want to signal a person to come near, you should move the fingers back and forth with palm down. But in the United States, you ask someone to come by holding the palm up and moving the ingers towards our body. And crossing one’s legs in the United States is a sign of being relaxed. But in Korea, it’s not allowed. In Chinese, people hand everything with both hands to show their respect, but for Muslims, they think the left hand is unclean and do not eat or pass something with it. Because of special culture influences in some countries, some body languages should attract our attention. In Turkey, putting one’s hand in one’s pockets is a sign of disrespect; in some Asian countries, you must not touch the head of another person.

And in China, people don’t kiss or hug each other, except hisher lover. For an Arab, it is a good manner to stand close to his friend when they are talking, but for English people, they don’t like to be close to one another. And in parts of Asia, you must not sit with your foot pointing at another person. Every culture has its own body language, and children absorb its nuances along with spoken language. A Frenchman talks and moves in French. The way an Englishman crosses is nothing like the way a male American does it.

When we communicate with people from other cultures, the body language sometimes help make the communication easy and effective, such as shaking hands is such a universal gesture that people all over the world know that it is a signal for greeting. But sometimes the body language can cause certain misunderstanding since people of different cultures often have different forms of behavior for sending the same body signals. Nodding one’s head is generally meant to show agreement “yes”, but to Nepalese, Sri Lankans, some Indians and some Eskimos, it means not “yes”, but “no”.

When an American rubs his nose, it may mean he is disagreeing with someone or rejecting something. 3 Facial Expressions and Eye Behaviors Many people and scholars have claimed that facial expressions and eye behaviors are probably the most significant areas of the body for communicating nonverbal messages, especially, atti- 2 Body Language Interrelating with Cultures Culture influences communication. Different country has :2010-11-20 : (1983- ), , :2010-12-15 , , , ? : 238 2011 2 Overseas English tudes and emotion.

The major reason that the facial area is so important in human communication is because it is almost always visible during face to face interaction. Let’s take a scene of TV series for example. This TV series is called Transoceanic Captain and His Wife. When this couple, the leading actor and actress, got together on the harbor, his wife did not say anything, but a faint smile crept across her face, and her cheek quivered slightly. We can have an insight into her heart through her facial expressions: loneliness, concern, hardworking, grievance and expectation. At that time, silence is better than words.

Ray Birdwhistell, a pioneer in the field of body language, —— —— concedes that all human smile—even blind babies do—for we all have the same face muscles. However, he contends that the meaning of the smile is not universal. Even in the United States he has found that there are “high-smile” areas, such as the South, where people do a lot of smiling, and “low -smile” areas, such as western New York State, where they do not (this is not a sign that Southerners are happier). In the South someone who does not often smile may be asked if he is angry, but in the Great Lakes region someone who does smile a lot may be asked what is so funny.

It is culture according to Birdwhistell, that supplies the meaning of smile, and it cannot be said to be a simple pleasure reflex. Eye behaviors are often considered the most important in the human communication process. Without eyes we can love, hate, attack, or insult our fellow human beings without uttering a word. Much of the attitudinal or emotional information is conveyed by eye behaviors. We always bear in mind that “eyes are the windows of our soul”. Eye behaviors have three qualities or characteristics. First one is Saliency. The second quality of eye behaviors is arousal.

The third character of eye behaviors is involvement, which means that eye behaviors are involved in human interaction. For example, on the judicial hearing of the Watergate affair, Kissinger appeared in the court as a witness. When someone asked a question concerning his reputation, his eyes winked by which someone suspected that he was lying, because he seldom winked in ordinary times. Finally, this suspicion was confirmed. There are some differences of eye contact in different cultures. In most English speaking countries, people make eye contact while they are talking with the addressees, if not, the person will be regarded as rudeness.

But in Asian countries, especially in Korea and Japan, they seldom deliver their eye contacts. In such case, people are inclined to confront with misunderstanding. It is essential to behave appropriately through eye behaviors. 4 Conclusion All above show that body language is very important to know the exact and precise meaning of our conversation. If we use body language we should use it in an appropriate way to make our conversation go smoothly. In the past decades, many linguists, sociologists, language teachers and communication specialists have done a lot of researches concerning nonverbal communication.

But nonverbal communication is still a young science which needs to be studied further. This paper gives a general introduction of nonverbal communication and stresses its influence in communication, specially pointing the important role in different cultures. Successful communication among people concerns verbal behavior as well as nonverbal one. So in order to improve the quality of our communication, it is helpful to learn something about this important form of human communication. References: 1] Forsdale L. Perspectives on Communication [M]. New York: Newbery Award Records,1981. [2] Julius F. Body Language[M]. New York:Pocket Books,1971. [3] . [M]. : ,2001. . [M]. : ,2000. [4] . Language And Beyond[M]. : , [5] 1989. ( , 237 2) , ? ) ? ? , ? , ? , ? , , ? , , , , ? ? , ? , , , ? ? , , , , , ? , , , , ? , , ? ? , , ” , , ? , , , ? , , ? , ? , ? ? , ? “ ” , ? , “ , , , , , ? , , , , ? ? , , , ? , , ? 3) ? , ? ? , ? , ? : [1] (2). [2] [3] . ,2007(4). . [J]. [J]. ,2003(2). 239 . [J]. ,201O ? , ? :