By Carolina MonacoSpecial to CSMS Magazine Trying to understand the eclectic world in which we live, especially in industrialized countries, is not a simple task, and it has becoming a main point of research for social psychologist, educators and communicators alike. Many investigations show that “clues in the nonverbal –channels- of communication (how something is said) are often more important than words alone (what is said)” (UCSC 2006).Nonverbal communication can be expressed in many different ways. Hand gestures are the most easy to identify, but people use all kind of facial expressions, vocal inflexions or vocal paralanguage, body movements, and personal space. The anthropologist Ray L. Birdwhistell pioneered kinesics, the scientific study of body language. His work was presented in Introduction to Kinesics, 1952 (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2004).In some cultures, it is a sign of disrespect for children to make eye contact with adults (Haitian and Chinese students). In school, we force students to look at us when we talk. This could be interpreted as if we are making them to disrespect us. Other cultures would show us respect by offering to us a national dish, which could turn into a nightmare when that dish is, for instance, a bowl of coagulated chicken blood. Expect this if you plan on visiting Vietnam!The difference of gestures from one culture to another –and from one generation to another for that matter- is remarkable. A Japanese woman will gesture using her two index fingers over her head (almost like trying to make ears and looking like a rabbit) to tell others that she is angry. She would cause people from western cultures to laugh at her. “It is almost never possible for us to understand intuitively the gestures from another culture” (UCSC 2006).Flight attendants and customer service employees are trained to smile at all times, even under strong pressure. This allows them to say something that is negative for the customer or passenger whom will accept it without complaint.How space is utilized and how much air should be left between two people is another rule that varies from culture to culture. The proxemic rules “are unwritten and never taught, but they are very powerful and known to all members of the culture” (UCSC 2006).The way we look is also sending a nonverbal message to others. In the African nation of the Ivory Coast, the physical preference goes for the much heavier woman.” The bigger the better” seems to be rule to follow for those seeking beauty. “When a woman approaches marriage, she is given a special diet to gain weight, so that she will be as large as possible on her wedding day. Many other societies also regard the heavier body shape as more attractive. This demonstrates that the ‘ultra-thin’ ideal in some Western societies is far from universal or inevitable” (UCSC 2006).In a world were interaction and understanding of differences is key to succeed, decoding nonverbal behavior is becoming as important as having a great idea or product to sell, or trained management.Note: Carolina Monaco is an education major at Nova Southeastern University. She wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine.