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The proverb that “actions speak louder than words,” is viewed just like a saying, but its implications and importance is vital as well. Nonverbal kinds of communication can take place deliberately or unintentionally. This kind of communication happens when some stimuli, which are not verbal, are produced by a speaker so that they can relay a meaningful message to the listener. It is basically receiving and sending messages by various ways that do not involve the usage of verbalizing. As it has been abovementioned, nonverbal communication can occur unintentionally or when one is fully conscious of what he/she wants to transmit.

There are many ways of nonverbal communication; for example, a message can be conveyed by means of touching, different types of eye contact, proximity, gestures, keeping quiet or speaking in high or low intonations, facial expressions, modes of posture, dress code and many others. Some people argue that means of nonverbal communication can be divided into messages produced by the body and those necessitated by the setting in terms of space and time. Despite the fact that we use a particular language to communicate, most of the communication we are engaged in is normally nonverbal. However, many peculiarities of nonverbal communications may be troublesome when interacting with people from different cultures (Nolan, 1999).

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Nonverbal kinds of communication are really vital since they play a significant role in ensuring that verbal messages are clearly understood. The tone used in nonverbal communication accents true meaning of the uttered words. Nonverbal messages are also essential in emphasizing what might have been said. They repeat the statement thus clarifying it. Nonverbal communication is also very useful for purposes of substitution. There may be many interruptions, for example, in a noisy place, yet the process of communication would still go on. By using such gesture as placing one’s fingers in front of the lips, one could indicate the need to maintain silence. Facial expressions could also be used in case where answers are required. A nod will indicate the affirmation and shaking head will show disagreement.

Nonetheless, the nonverbal cues, which are used for the purposes of complementing verbal messages, have been the subject of criticism. In fact, this type of communication may cause contradiction due to notable differences between cultures. While, for instance, Americans will nod to confirm a positive message, a wink in some cultures will mean vice versa.

I work in a United Nations organization where all the countries involved have their representatives. This means adjusting and accepting a variety of cultures and national backgrounds. We are living in cosmopolitan and metropolitan states where nonverbal communication is interpreted differently. It is important to familiarise oneself with such differences in order to create a harmonious and peaceful environment in the workplace. For example, such facial expression like smiling is the usual one to the Americans at my workplace. When we arrive in the morning, we greet each other happily and smile to each other. However, some of my colleagues, who are Russians, find it to be impolite and strange. How does one smile to someone over nothing while he/she may have big troubles? Some of my colleagues from Asian cultures also found it strange when people were smiling only when they were happy or when they simply expressed friendliness. According to their viewpoint, a smile was mostly expressed when one was embarrassed (Udeani et al., 2008). The Scandinavians in the Human Resources Department believed that one should not show any kinds of emotions. It was regarded as a form of weakness. A smile to show joy or friendliness was thus improper and unacceptable.

Contradictions arose during meetings whilst to most Americans nodding was considered portray the affirmation. However, Habib, the data entry clerk from Syria, portrayed this by shaking his head. When he elaborated verbally, this caused laughter, which was very upsetting to him. He also got offended by some arm gestures. His supervisor once showed him the thumbs up sign to congratulate him on a well-done job. The supervisor was not aware that people from the Middle East countries associate this with vulgar meanings. This was not only there, but also in Latin America. To people from the Middle East and Latin America, the acceptable physical space and distance is much shorter without any ill intensions. Touching and kissing on the cheek twice is acceptable to them, but to the African Americans and people from some parts of Asia such gesture is interpreted as an invasion of privacy and is considered offensive. Some other features of body language such as the eye contact, brought about striking differences (Guirdham, 2011). 

In some countries, affection was displayed in different ways. In America, for example, people walk around holding hands and caressing without drawing much attention. This, nevertheless, was treated with mixed reactions, especially by the residents from Africa and the Middle East countries. This demeanor greatly offended them and was regarded as improper. Some cultures are very conservative and do not allow this kind of nonsense. Some things were preserved and confined to the bedroom. These displays of affection were prohibited in one department headed by a Nigerian. Some people could not see the big deal and he was somehow alienated.

For Americans, a lack of eye contact is regarded to be disrespectful, while in other cultures, for example among Asians and Africans a prolonged eye contact is offensive and must be avoided at all costs. Particular physical postures also offend most people from the Asian countries. Sitting in a chair with feet outstretched or with feet on top of the desk highly irritated them and when we sought the reason, they said they were socialised in that way. In other cultures and parts of the world, a lack of eye contact, especially to authority figures, will signify high respect and deference for them. This is common in monarchies and kingdoms.

Other paralanguages have displayed different characteristics. In different cultures the meanings of the same messages are not similar. Japanese view giggling as an expression that is elicited by an act of embarrassment. Belching is a common practise among Indians. This will startle many people of different cultures who view it as unhygienic and inappropriate, especially at the workstation. Loudness can be another example of different perception of paralanguages, which may be interpreted by some cultures as a form of confidence and authority. This was the same with the Germans (Toomey, 1999). To Arabs for example, softness of the voice was a form of weakness and it was greatly detested. Shouting in Asia was out of the ordinary and doing so would be met with reprisals.

A particular institution or organization should seek ways to avert any misunderstandings or conflicts that may arise as a result of such issues. It is the duty of the management to conduct a thorough survey of the multicultural barriers that hinder the growth of the institution. The management should conduct sensitization seminars to make the employees aware of this issue. There should be serious sanctions for people who fail to observe and follow these guidelines. The differences involved in the nonverbal kinds of communication are very striking. To provide smooth working relations in the environment with people from diverse cultures, it is imperative that the management familiarises itself with it as soon as possible to avoid reprimanding and dismissing someone whose actions may have been necessitated by his/her culture.

This should also include the point that people are not discriminated according to this. Consequently, it will prevent unnecessary embarrassments. However, we have to be tolerant to each other’s cultures and their diverse views. We should learn to forgive and move on to avert constant disagreements and animosity. In spite of the fact that we try to be understandable, a research has shown that as human beings we are bound to always show features of our cultures.

It is imperative for all and sundry to make an effort into ensuring that they familiarise themselves with the different kinds of cultures and their way of perception of nonverbal communication. This greatly helps in minimising the risk posed by offending others, especially if it is done unintentionally. It is also the duty of the management in the institution to control the formation of clear guidelines that control nonverbal communication. Some institutions that have employees from different cultures have even gone to the extent of banning these nonverbal means of communication.

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