Gestures and Movements 'kinesics' in International Business Communication

Hausarbeit, 2006

15 Seiten


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Challenges of non-verbal communication in international business surroundings.

3. Gestures and body movements in international business.
3.1 Emblems
3.2 Illustrators
3.3 Regulators
3.4 Affect Behaviour / Affect Displays
3.5 Adaptors

4. Conclusion

5. References


Implications of Various nonverbal Behaviour in Different Countries

1. Introduction

Successful business men and women who come in contact with a variety of people and cultures quickly learn the meanings behind common gestures and body movements in different cultures. Only the unsuccessful businessperson fails to learn the importance of those when talking with potential clients.

When we talk with our gestures and movements, a variety of meanings can be generated. Especially during introductory situations a person must know the appropriate greeting in order to convey the intended content. To nod, bow, kiss, shake hands, smile, wave, touch cheeks, or rub noses are common greetings used in various parts of the world. Use an inappropriate gesture and the door may never open to you.

Intercultural interactions are never without some problems. Linguistic barriers are compounded by differences in nonverbal communication. Actually, nonverbal communication comprises a big block within communication as a whole. The nonverbal communication takes up around 65-70 percent of the meaning conveyed by a spoken message. It is widely accepted and known that nonverbal communication–especially gestures and body movements–bring the potential to get along better with different cultures and, of course, with business partners. Although it is very time-consuming, learning these signals, brings so many positive aspects that it is worth the trouble of learning the nuances and differences.

Nonverbal communication as indicated above is a big topic. Breaking it down shows that it consists of many more subparts. Gestures and body movements are one of the most important aspects of nonverbal communication.

By analyzing all gestures and body movements I want to show the different interplay of intent, comprehension and impact people can cause to international business processes and their outcomes by interacting with one another in different cultures.

2. Challenges of non-verbal communication in international business surroundings.

In order to advance their business goals, people who travel for business to different parts of the world, should be aware of local customs and rituals. The nonverbal part of communications is often especially implicated. Words and phrases used during a conversation really only take up about 30-35 percent while nonverbal communication, consisting of gestures, stances, facial expressions and the like, make up the remaining 65-70 percent. (Victor 1992:183) Considering this weighted importance of non-verbal communicating, it should be essential for any business person to know that a familiar gesture or body movement may have a totally unexpected meaning in a different culture. Sometimes it may even have the reverse meaning that was intended (Ibid 185).

Gesteland (2005:81) explains some compelling aspects on how a gesture influences the relationship between business people. He explains, for example, that in Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist cultures, the left hand is considered unclean and is therefore strictly avoided for the use of handling objects destined to be handed over to the business partner. This is especially consequential at the exchange of business cards or welcome presents. Here, Gesteland also offers the solution to a potential conflict of purpose: Though you are not supposed to use your left hand by itself to handle objects, you could use both hands—scooping the right hand with the left hand. Thus offence is sidestepped and a much greater respect is demonstrated to high-status persons during the exchange of gifts or business cards (Ibid 81).

Intercultural interactions are never without problems. Those arise not only from linguistic differences since the language itself can be learned relatively easy. Rather, intercultural interactions will always be intertwined with non-verbal issues (Gudykunst, Mody 2002:90).

Here Gudykunst and Mody (2002:90) also speak of so-called high-contact cultures. People classified in this manner are more likely to emphasize certain parts of their communication by touching the person they converse with. High-contact cultures are said to be found in South America, Southern and Eastern Europe and throughout the Arab world. By contrast, low-contact cultures in which people communicate with less physical touch to the other person, are usually found in north-western regions of the world, such as in northern Europe and in North America (Gudykunst, Mody 2002:90).

Gesteland (2005:77) provides another illustrative example from his life in which he describes a situation during a business meeting he attended with his counterpart in India. On their way to lunch in a restaurant Gesteland was quite taken aback when his counterpart suddenly took his hand. To Gesteland such a gesture would have implied intimate fondness, but in India this means nothing else than an expression of genuine friendship and is accepted by men and women alike. (Ibid 77)

To break it down into chapters Richmond and McCroskey, (2000:54) found out that there are many different nonverbal communication forms (1) Physical Appearance (2) Gesture and Movement (kinescis) (3) Face and Eye Behaviour (4) Vocal Behaviour (paralanguage) (5) Space (6) Touch (7) Environment and the last one is (8) Time.

These are the group’s nonverbal communication, and also of course international nonverbal communications consists of. Although all of them are very interesting and belong to nonverbal communication it would be out of the reach of this short paper to analyze every category. The focus of this paper was to analyze the 2nd, and most important group of nonverbal communication –Gestures and Movement– and it’s dissimilarity in international business communication across cultures.

3. Gestures and body movements in international business.

Anderson (1999:36) believes that our body is capable to transmit hundreds, if not thousands of messages and Wiley (1990) goes even a step further and claims that the human body is capable of over 270,000 separate gestures. Specialists like Anderson, (1990), Richmond, McCroskey, (2000:56), summarize this with the term Kinesics. Kinesics, as Richmond and McCroskey, (2000:54) write, is the study of what communication a body is able to transmit through gestures and body movements rather than spoken words. Peter A. Anderson (1999:35), enhances this definition of kinesics by including almost everything a person does or wears on his or her body. They say kinesics is defined to be all gestures, head movements, eye behavior, facial expressions, posture, and movements of the trunk, arms, legs, feet, hands, and fingers. O’Hair, W. Friedrich and Dixon Shaver, (1998:153), consider kinesics as being either intentional or unintentional.

Richmond, McCroskey, (2000:57-65) write that “besides the situation that provides the context for body motions, it is also essential to understand that our culture, upbringing, ethnic and geographic origins, social status, and even educational background contribute to the meaning of gesture and movement.” Additionally, anthropologists like Virginia P. Richmond and James C. McCroskey, (2000:65), O’Hair, W. Friedrich and Dixon Shaver (1983:103-174), break human gestures and body movements down into five main types: (1) Emblems, (2) Illustrators, (3) Regulators, (4) Affect Displays and (5) Adaptors.

All of these body movements and gestures play critical roles in conducting international business. Following examples illustrate what each one of those might entail.


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Gestures and Movements 'kinesics' in International Business Communication
Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg
KUSO an der FH Hamburg Internationales Management 2. Semester
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
538 KB
Gestures, Movements, International, Business, Communication, KUSO, Hamburg, Internationales, Management, Semester
Arbeit zitieren
Dirk Hollank (Autor:in), 2006, Gestures and Movements 'kinesics' in International Business Communication, München, GRIN Verlag,


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