If you’re not speaking, say so!

Posted on June 1, 2010. Filed under: American culture, cross cultural communication | Tags: , , , , |

The Supreme Court’s recent decision that  suspects must explicitly tell police they want to be silent to invoke Miranda protections during criminal interrogations is a spectacular example of American cultural communication patterns. You can’t just be quiet and have people get it (oh, he’s not talking) you have to say you’re not going to talk.

Americans are very direct and expect others to be equally direct. They do not read between the lines as well as cultures with indirect communication styles, and have difficulty understanding and recognizing nuance and inference.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this one: You don’t have the right to be quiet, because you didn’t say you were going to be quiet, you were just, well, quiet. No rights for you!!

As our newest judge, a.k.a the Wise Latina, pointed out, “criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent”.  As if not speaking is somehow ambiguous.

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Obama, Reid, and Nonverbal Communication

Posted on January 12, 2010. Filed under: cross cultural communication, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Harry Reid was only stating the obvious—-what you look like and what you sound like have a huge impact on your audience.

93% of communication is nonverbal. The actual words account for only 7% of communication.

How closely your nonverbal style matches someone else’s will affect how well the two of you can communicate. The closer the styles are, the better the communication. Styles that are different are more likely to result in prejudice, conflict, and communication breakdown.

What Reid was saying, basically, is that a White American audience will be receptive to Obama’s appearance (light skinned), and vocal qualities (“no Negro dialect”). People, rightly or wrongly, have expectations and preferences for nonverbal communication. It’s the “Oh, he’s like me” moment that lowers communication barriers.

Biases and prejudice are also grounded in nonverbal communication and body language. People make judgments, both positive and negative, about other cultures’ body language and tone, which then impacts communication.

People who interact with diverse cultures will have greater awareness of different nonverbal communication styles. Those who understand and can use a variety of these styles will have a larger skill set to draw on and greater chance at communication success.

Nonverbal communication includes:

  • facial expression
  • body posture
  • touching
  • movement
  • physical distance
  • hand gestures
  • eye contact
  • grooming/dress
  • Tone and vocal qualities (dialect)

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