multicultural competency verbal and non verbal communication l.
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Multicultural Competency: Verbal and Non Verbal Communication

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Verbal Communication Language & Culture: The Essential Partnership“If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a different world” (Wittgenstein).“Language is the roadmap of a culture. It tells you where its people came from and where they are going” (Brown). How would we communicate without words?(There are over 6,000 languages!)

verbal communication language culture the essential partnership

Verbal Communication Language & Culture: The Essential Partnership

What is language? Language is a set of shared symbols or signs that a cooperative groups of people has mutually agreed to use to create meaning.

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Verbal Communication Language & Culture: The Essential Partnership

  • Language Reflects Cultural Values:
  • High and Low Power Distance (formal/informal)
  • Individualism and Collectivism
  • High and Low Context
nonverbal communication

Nonverbal Communication

Usually responsible for first impressions

Doesn’t lie (a clenched jaw shows you’re angry or stammering speech shows that you’re nervous)

Is culturally bound

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Nonverbal Communication

Two General Classifications1. Those primarily produced by the body (appearance, movement, facial expression, eye contact, touch, smell, and paralanguage)

2. Those combined with setting (space, time and silence)

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Nonverbal Communication

There is a story about the presidential debate of Nixon and Kennedy in 1960 where people listening via radio awarded the victory to Nixon while those watching the debate on television awarded the victory to Kennedy.This was explained by the fact that though President Nixon had very persuasive words during the debate, he was tense, sweating and seemed quite uncomfortable. On the other hand, President Kennedy was relaxed and able to convey a positive and convincing body language during the debate. Since that incident, researchers have demonstrated that a message is perceived in 3 different ways:

nonverbal communication9

Nonverbal Communication

Body Language (kinesics) --

are the physical cues that are visible and send a message about 1) your attitude toward the other person, 2) your emotional state, 3) your relationship with the environment

includes body posture, body motion, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact.

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Nonverbal Communication

Kinesics: Eye Contact

In American culture, we reveal whom we like and dislike just by the amount that we look at them. We generally look most at those whom we like . In general, people avoid looking at someone they don’t like. 

As people increase their liking for one another, they increase the amount of mutual gazing that they do. (Mutual gaze is when two people are looking into each other's eyes). The most obvious example of this occurs along the continuum of relationships. Romantic relationships have the highest amount of mutual gaze.What about other cultures?


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Nonverbal Communication

Sense of Touch: Haptics

Who can touch whom, where, when and howTouch is culturally determined – who can you touch?

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Nonverbal Communication

Physical Appearance:

Body artifacts (clothing, piercings, tattoos) and attractiveness

In what ways do you dress that reflect your cultural values?

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Nonverbal Communication

Environmental Factors

Elements of setting that affect how we feel and act (color, temperature, lighting, room design)

How are your personal spaces designed to reflect your cultural values?

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Nonverbal Communication

Space and Distance: Proxemics

Personal space (intimate, personal, social and public


Furniture arranging

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Nonverbal Communication

Time (chronemics)

Informal time (how late is “late”?)

Perceptions of past, present and future

Monochronic (fixed) and polychronic (holistic time) (Edward T. Hall)

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Nonverbal Communication

Paralanguage: are the sounds that don’t have written form that modify meaning or convey emotion.

Includes: rate, sounds, murmurs, gasps, volume, pitch, inflection, laughing, high speed

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Nonverbal Communication

Silence : East vs. West“What is real is, and when it is spoken it becomes unreal.” (Buddhism)

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” (American saying)

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Nonverbal Communication


Elements of the environment that communicate by virtue of people’s use of them.

multicultural communication competency

MulticulturalCommunication Competency

To be a competent intercultural communicator, one must be able to analyze the situation and select the correct mode of behavior.

Effective communicators are those who are 1) motivated 2) have a fund of knowledge to draw upon and 3) possess certain communication skills.


Multicultural Communication Competency


  • Know Yourself -- know your culture, (yes, whiteness is a culture), know your perceptions (attitudes, prejudices, and opinions), know how you act out those perceptions, and monitor yourself as a communicator (how do I communicate and how do others perceive me?).
  • Learn your communication style.

Multicultural Communication Competency

  • Develop Empathy-- we are imaginatively placing ourselves in the dissimilar world of another.
  • Hindrances to empathy: constant self focus, stereotyped notions, defensive behavior. Improving empathy: pay attention, communicate empathy, use culturally accepted behaviors, avoid ethnocentric responses.
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Multicultural Communication Competency
  • Develop Communication Flexibility -- "become more like a willow than an oak tree“
  • Learn to Tolerate Ambiguity -- delay a decision on how to approach a new person or situation until as much information as possible has been gained by observation. Use trial and error rather than the same formula each time.
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Multicultural Communication Competency

Learn to Manage Conflict -- Conflict usually happens because participants perceive incompatible goals or threats to their ego. When you add culture, it becomes even more complex. How we respond to conflict is culturally determined.

Learn About Cultural Adaptation -- acquire knowledge about the host culture and increase contact with the host culture

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Multicultural Communication Competency

“The communicator cannot stop at knowing the people he is working with have different customs, goals, and thought patterns from his own. He must be able to feel his way into intimate contact with these alien values, attitudes and feelings. He must be able to work with them and within them, neither losing his own values in the confrontation nor protecting himself behind a wall of intellectual detachment” (Roger Harrison, 1966)