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Sunday, March 26, 2023

New Tools Teachers Need to Know About Non-Verbal Communication

By Elizabeth PencavaSpecial to CSMS Magazine            There are many situations that might require you to interpret the nonverbal behavior of someone from another culture. For example, let’s say you are in a foreign country and don’t speak the language, and you notice a person who is in a life threatening predicament. You will have to try to communicate with someone in a nonverbal way to get some help for this person. The native of this country will have to try to interpret your gestures in order to understand you, and vice versa. Problems that could arise from not understanding differences in nonverbal behavior could lead to dangerous or desperate situations. That’s why it is important to learn about a country and its customs before going there to visit.Studying intercultural aspects of nonverbal behavior can help assist me as a teacher in discovering my own ethnocentrism because it would enable me to learn and understand different types of nonverbal communication and help prevent me from having bias views against other cultures. In my opinion as a teacher it is important to have a clear, subjective, and diverse view of communication, whether verbal or nonverbal. If a student doesn’t speak English well, some forms nonverbal communication is needed to accommodate this student. Otherwise, he would feel isolated and may even withdraw from classroom activities.It should be an every-teacher’s hope that his/her students would be able to understand his/her gestures, and not get frustrated. The goal would be to create some forms of communication, which would enable student/teacher to learn from each other. I believe that some forms of nonverbal communication are universal, while others are not. We live in a world that is full of nonverbal communication, and it is important for everyone to increase their knowledge of the world outside and around them.Important Tips Teachers Should Know About Gestures                                                          AMERICAN GESTURES  

Greetings Hand shake
Farewells Raise the hand and with the full, open palm wave the hand back and forth raise the hand and with a full, open palm wave the hand up and down at the wrist.
Beckoning Raise the hand, with the index finger, raised about head high or a little higher raise the hand and with the full, open palm wave the hand back and forth to attract attention; curl the index finger in and out
O.K. Thumb and forefinger making a circle.
Good Job Thumbs up
“Victory” or “peace” Holding the index and middle fingers upright

                        AMERICAN GESTURES – HEAD  

Yes Nodding the head up and down
No Shaking the head side to side.
Thinking or confused or skeptical Scratching the head
Shows attentiveness, listening Direct eye contact

                         UNIVERSAL HAND GESTURES  

I am tired. Pressing the palms together and resting the head on the back of the hand while closing the eyes as if sleeping.
I am hungry. Patting the stomach with the hands
After eating, I am full. Taking the hand and making a circular motion over the stomach.
I am thirsty. Using the hand and making a circular motion over the stomach.
I am cold, or it’s cozy or a sign of eager anticipation. Rubbing the hands together.

 )                                     East African GesturesPointing The Maasai and some other peoples in East Africa point with the chin, while looking in the direction they indicate.  It is impolite, or even rude, to point with the index finger, as Germanic peoples do, and insulting to point your index finger at someone.Pointed Chin Besides greetings, gestures are a regular part of conversation. For instance, Maasai and various other African peoples point with the chin, not the forefinger. For many African peoples, pointing with the finger is impolite. Pointing at a person is even offensive.Calling Someone to You Hand motions have various meanings indicating threat or acceptance, or personal attitude toward someone.  For instance, the common American practice of calling someone to you by crooking your forefinger several times toward yourself is highly insulting in most of Africa.              Most African peoples and many Asian peoples call someone, or indicate it is OK to approach by placing the fingers of the right hand downward, with the palm toward the speaker (caller) and motioning with the whole hand down and toward the speaker.In a restaurant in Nairobi, for instance, you would raise your hand to head height or a bit higher, just as in an American situation, but you would motion with the whole hand, palm down.  In practice the fingers may be almost extended forward, so you are actually “waving” your hand downward, similar to one form of the American wave of “goodbye.”EyesIn most cultures of Eastern Africa, you do not traditionally look directly and intently at the person you are talking to.  You might glance into their eyes as you start a sentence, or periodically if they are speaking to you, looking quickly at them, then down and to the side.  To look intently, which for Americans indicate polite and complete attention to the person addressing, can be taken as threatening to an African.            One would tend to look over the shoulder, swing the eyes down to one side and across to the other, periodically catching the eye of the other person, to retain interest and be sure they are following your conversation.  The specifics of intensity and frequency of direct looking, and exactly where the “away” glances are made, varies with each of the hundreds of tribes of peoples in the Eastern African countries.  The better you know the person the more you would look directly at each other.  In cities and with younger people, you will notice more western patterns.BowingOften a handshake, of any of the many varieties different tribes may use, is accompanied by a slight bowing or tilting the torso slightly forward, or bowing the head, similar to the formal greeting used in Europe when greeting royalty of visiting diplomats (similarly in the US, though it not as frequent in the US). In some locales, a child might bow forward to the waist, after extending her hand to the adult, continuing to hold the adult’s hand until coming up out of the bow. Also in those situations, the youth would rarely look the adult in the eyes, which would be considered impolite, impudent or disrespectful.Adults (of equal station) would commonly only make a gesture of a slight bow toward each other while shaking hands.Other practices It is also considered the polite thing to do to smack your lips while eating.  This also expresses enjoyment of the food, as well as thanks to the cook. In India, people show puzzlement or sorrow by bobbing their head in a sort of figure eight, up and down at the same time with the eyes and face still forward.  You may have seen this gesture in movies about India. Many societies shake the head form side to side to indicate “Yes,” whereas most European cultures use this gesture to indicate “No.”Left Hand ProhibitionIn many cultures of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, you do not use your left hand to take or hand anything to anyone else, or even to motion with when talking.  This is especially important with food, in a group setting. It can be very awkward when a left-handed person is seen writing someone’s name in such a culture. One of my friends was challenged by a Maasai acquaintance when the Maasai discovered the American writing his name on a piece of paper with his left hand! He commented to my American friend, “You are writing my name with your left hand!”  The American answered, “Yes, I am left-handed.”  This irrelevant western rationalist detail did not make sense to his Maasai friend!The Maasai exclaimed again to the American, “But you are writing my name!”  Then the left-handed writer realized something was amiss, they stopped and discussed the matter, worked it out, and each rose to a new level of cross-cultural appreciation!ReferencesGestures: Body Language and Nonverbal Communication By Gary Imai (http://www.csupomona.edu/~tassi/gestures.htm#americanGestures Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins (http://orvillejenkins.com/whatisculture/gesturesnewcul.html)

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