Codes in Nonverbal Communication Create Different Cultures
Nonverbal communication is one of the most basic things that occur in different places around the world. It is one of the most natural things on earth for people who want their messages to get across and be understood. Interpersonal communication cannot be complete without it regardless of the person, the place, the time and circumstance. People around the world use it to prop up or contradict what they verbally say in their statements.
In different cultures around the world, the use of nonverbal codes can be witnessed constantly when communicating. Kinesics is sent through bodily movements and gestures, manners and postures. The art of greeting, for example, comes differently in a variety of cultures. Some do it through handshaking, others do it by bowing or kneeling, with or without direct eye contact. The facial expression and bodily posture is also important, since it delivers messages, especially those that are connected to respect and esteem. In some Asian countries, for example, it is only polite not to look directly in the eye when greeting someone; yet, in the U.S., greetings would not be complete without direct eye contact. The act of smiling cannot be ignored as well, as it carries a wide array of emotions from happiness to anger, to confusion, respect, apology, excitement, pride, triumph, and even sadness.
Paralanguage, on the other hand, is being sent through vocal cues like the use of volume, pitch, pause, silence, tempo, timbre, resonance, the loudness, intonation, and the rate of words that are being used. This appears to be very important when delivering a statement, since it gives a cue on whether or not the statement is indeed, true. From my experience, the way someone tells me something creates a certain meaning through the use of these paralinguistic qualities of the voice. The statement “I understand” can be very different when said with a loud voice than with a soft and mellow voice. Another example is when we say the words “come over here.” We use different sets of tempo, timbre, and intonation when we say it to children, to adolescents, to adults, to the elderly, and to our partners and friends. This is related to chronemics or the use of time in sending message cues. The amount of time spent in communicating, as well as, punctuality and the amount of waiting time are only some examples of these. Although some would find it weird, other countries respond positively to less punctual arriving time because it signifies high political and social status. This is difficult to comprehend but for them, it is almost natural to be behind schedule.
Proxemics or the use of spatial cues includes how we bring into play interpersonal distance and territoriality. Many countries are composed of non-touch oriented societies, such as the Middle Eastern countries and some that are situated in the east and west of the global map. In some European countries, however, public display of intimacy and affection are acceptable, while others allow only public mild display of affection. Countries in the Pacific and in Africa allow pushing and bumping people in the crowds. What is most evident, however, is that most countries display spatial cues that deliver the most area of space that is possible between a certain number of people. This is evident when entering elevators, for example, wherein four people inside would stay in the four corners of the area. This can also be related to haptics, which talks of the type, frequency, and intensity of touch. Most cultures prevent the public display of touch, which signifies respect and confidentiality.
Olfactics relates to the use of odor and scent in encouraging a certain motion or response. Because odor molecules can influence behavior by sending brain signals to the brain, it creates a certain emotion and thus, influences the behavior or response of the individual. It is usually used in creating a certain impression, which sends a message cue nonverbally. People, for example, may use a specific odor or scent (e.g., the use of perfumes) in attracting those of the opposite gender. What they verbally declare, for example, may mean the opposite when the nonverbal cues, such as odors, are applied. This creates a sort of violation in the nonverbal expectancies, when what we expect turn out to be wrong or invalid. In the world of nonverbal communication, what seem to be may not be as it is.