See What I’m Saying? I Leslie Bank

Whether you are aware of it or not, we use non-verbal cues when communicating.

This can include gestures, body movement, and facial expressions. These generally help to increase understanding and streamline exchanges between speakers, but there are situations in which these can have the opposite effect.

This miscommunication through non-verbal cues mainly occurs among speakers from different cultural backgrounds. For example, in one culture eye contact is a sign of respect and showing interest while in another it is a sign of disrespect. Hand gestures can likewise have opposite meanings across cultures (like the American “V for Victory” or “thumbs up”).

Learning the cultural meanings behind these non-verbal cues is just as important as learning the language. You certainly wouldn’t want to accidentally offend your waitress whilst ordering food, or even a potential boss during an interview. Even if you are not planning to travel, perhaps you learned a new language to better connect with your significant other’s family. How terrible would it be to meet them only to offend them with a gesture that you intended as a friendly greeting? This also applies for sub-cultures! More than once a deaf person has fallen victim to gang violence due to the gang misinterpreting the signs as gang signs!

How many gestures do you make unconsciously when communicating?

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