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Non-Verbal Communications

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Culture affects non-verbal communications in various ways.  The purpose of non-verbal communication is the same as verbal, as it is meant to ‘speak’ one’s emotions, actions and intentions out to others.  Just as various verbal communication is accepted or looked down upon in a culture, the same goes with one’s body language, as it gives clues to many things such as approvals, anger, and happiness.  For instance, making eye contact is considered to be obligatory and a sign of attentiveness in some cultures (mostly Western) while the same non-verbal action is seen as a rude invasion of personal space and immodest in others (Eastern).  The same action is taken into different contexts depending on the culture. 

Furthermore, culture is the main factor in affecting people’s perception or point of views about other people, things and events.  For example, individualistic cultures encourage self-achievements and aspirations, focusing on valuing independence.  For these people, it is harder to take other people’s perceptions in mind.  On the contrary, cultures which are interdependent and value relationships and social dependence on each other can see other people’s point of views easily and in fact, value this perception.  Usually in these cultures, people do many things which out of love and fear of society. 

There are many factors which affect how we think, see and evaluate ourselves.  The main factors are culture, gender and appearance.  Culture affects self-concept because it provides people with a certain criteria of living, which includes expectations and punishments.  The way one views oneself is affected by the people around us and their expectations.  The more we will please them, the higher the approval and self-concept levels will be.  As for gender, a society provides specific definitions of what it means to be feminine and masculine and if one does not fall under those categories or challenges society’s definitions of sexuality, then the self-concept will be affected negatively.  Lastly, appearance is the obvious factor which greatly affects self-concept.  Again, society has rigid structures and guidelines for what is considered beautiful and ugly and this is something which is not always in one’s control.  Hence, appearance is the greatest factor which can make or break one’s self-concept. 

Men and women have different images and roles in society, and how they communicate is an essential part of their masculinity or femininity.  The two genders have significantly different language styles such as the fact that men tend to speak in louder voices and use concrete words whereas women tend to use softer or higher voices coupled with flowery, exaggerated language.  Furthermore, society expects men and women to choose language and styles of speaking according to their genders.  For instance, it is socially acceptable and even expected from men to use aggressive language while the women must be the epitome of politeness and educated speaking styles.  When it comes to powerless language, women are more prone to use it as they are considered the weaker of the two genders in many cultures on intellectual, physical and emotional levels.  They are also expected to be the victims of powerful language and abuse. 

Three methods used to understand another person better and are used to improve active listening are facing the speaker, keeping eye contact, and keeping an open mind.  When communicating with anyone, one must give the speaker all attention physically, which means showing the speaker through your body language that you are engaged and attentive.  This motivates the speaker to improve the quality of the conversation and be respectful in return.  Part of positive body language is to maintain eye contact (depending on the culture) to visually let the other people know that you are focused and alert.  It also proves to the speaker that you are looking at their body language and taking in all parts of the conversation.  Most importantly, one must have an open mind when part of any conversation.  Making assumption and interrupting speakers early will damage the conversation quality and lead to broken communication paths, which will further create misunderstandings. 

It is imperative to remember that in order to effectively communicate between different culture groups, one must make the effort to educate oneself about the dos and don’ts of the opposing culture.  There are many barriers which block healthy intercultural communication and three of them are jargon or slang, time and stereotypes.  Every culture has its own jargon and slang which can be confusing to comprehend for a guest.  Furthermore, some jargon might be acceptable in one culture but the same words may be highly offensive in others.  As for time, it plays an essential role in daily cultural events, but the concept varies in importance from one to another.  For instance, a culture in which tardiness is seen as offensive and irresponsible will come into clash with a culture in which people are expected to arrive half an hour late to appointments.  Stereotypes create great barriers in intercultural relationships and communications; because of stereotypes, one makes false assumptions about others which lead to building personal assumptions about entire cultures.  Effective communication cannot take place when people’s judgment and communication styles are clouded by stereotypes. 

Shared leadership comes in many forms such as distributed leadership, leadership partners, and an entire leadership community.  Three categories of shared leadership roles are balanced power, shared purpose or goal, and sharing work responsibility.  For shared leadership to be effective the leaders must share power equally and have equal rights; without such agreement and clear communication, it will lead to unfair work burden.  Also, all leaders need to make sure they have the same intentions in mind, otherwise, there will be split goals and actions will be all over the place, with no one goal getting accomplished properly.  Finally, the work load should be divided equally among the leaders to avoid confusion as to who is the true leader and who is acting as a follower.  These roles are essential for shared leadership to be effective. 

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