Gestures: Body Language and Nonverbal Communication
Do we expect other cultures to adopt our customs or are we willing to adopt theirs? This might translate to how business or even foreign relations are to be conducted. Do we compromise or force others peoples to deal only on our terms? We may not have time to hear a language , but taking time to learn the “signals” is a powerful communicator.
As the global village continues to shrink and cultures collide, it is essential for all of us to become more sensitive, more aware, and more observant to the myriad motions, gestures, and body language that surround us each day. And as many of us cross over cultural borders, it would be fitting for us to respect, learn, and understand more about the effective, yet powerful “silent language” of gestures.
The world is a giddy montage of vivid gestures- traffic police, street vendors, expressway drivers, teachers, children on playground, athletes with their exuberant hugging, clenched fists and “high fives.” People all over the world use their hands, heads, and bodies to communicate expressively.
Without gestures, our world would be static and colorless. The social anthropologist Edward T. Hall claims 60 percent of all our communication is nonverbal. In that case, how can we possibly communicate with one another without gestures?
Gestures and body language communicate as effectively as words- maybe even more effectively. We use gestures daily, almost instinctively, from beckoning to a waiter, or punctuating a business presentation with visual signals to airport ground attendants guiding an airline pilot into the jetway or a parent using a whole dictionary of gestures to teach (or preach to) a child.
Gestures are woven inextricably in to our social lives, but also that the “vocabulary” of gestures, can be at once informative and entertaining… but also dangerous. Gestures can be menacing (two drivers on a freeway), warm (an open-armed welcome). instructive(a police man giving road directions), or even sensuous (the liquid movement of a Hawaiian hula dancer).
Bear in mind that the following gestures are in general use, but there may always be exceptions. In recent years, Western and contemporary values and ideas have become more popular and have either influenced, altered, and even replaced, some of the more traditional gestures, understanding human behavior is tricky stuff. No two people behave in precisely the same way. Nor do people from the same culture all perform exactly the same gestures and body language uniformly. For almost any gestures there will probably be a minority within a given nationality who might say “Well, some might attach that meaning to it, but to me it means…” and then they will provide a different interpretation.
In the world of gestures, the best single piece of advice is to remember the two A’s – “Ask” and be “aware.” If you see a motion or gesture that is new or confusing , ask a local person what it signifies. Then, be aware of the many body signs and customs around you.