Body Language in Different Cultures

What is body language? How can we use it? How is it used differently in other cultures?

Body language is ubiquitous!! defines body language; “nonverbal, usually unconscious, communication through the use of postures, gestures, facial expressions and the like.” Can you think of a time when you have used body language to get your point across? Are you sure sent the right message?

How can Body Language be used Effectively?

Body language can be more important than your actual words. What message are you really sending? For example; you would not want to have your arms folded during a job interview or you would not want to point at someone in a negative manner. Body language is a very powerful tool that should be put to good use. Be certain that you are sending the correct message verbally and physically. For example; sitting up-right during a job interview shows that you are interested. Be very clear and direct with your actions. Mixed signals can cause someone to be confused, offended and uncomfortable. Hand gestures can help express emphasis on the current topic. Facial expressions can show interest or disinterest.


How is Body Language used in Different Cultures?

In you culture, what is considered the social norm? As Hoosiers, we all share similar nonverbal communication messages. We tend to be more comfortable with certain situations than others. For example; we have our “boundary lines” and we do not like them to be crossed. By “boundary lines”, I am referring to our levels of comfort in certain situations. How close is too close? I know that I have what I like to call “my bubble.” I tend to get very uncomfortable when someone invades “my bubble” without warning. For example; when I am having a conversation with someone I like to keep at least 2 feet of distance between faces. However, someone from another culture might be offended if I keep distance from them during our conversation. Let’s use japan as an example. It is well known that Japan is a very over-populated country. Just how comfortable would you be working less than 5 feet from your co-workers every day? The Japanese have adapted to their population and are comfortable with the situation.



Typical American Office


Typical Japanese Office


In closing, I want to remind you that I have just touched this topic with a few examples. As I mentioned before, body language is ubiquitous.  I will leave you with a few things to think about. Body language is very powerful and effective. Always think about your actions. What message are you really sending with your nonverbal actions? Will I offend anyone with my actions? What is considered the social norm?


Works Cited

By Michael Ayers, Business Major at IUPUC


1 Comment

  1. December 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Was for my trip to the caribbean when I came accross this site, actually helped me steer clear of
    some awkward circumstances. Alot of great tips here.

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