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Importance of Non-Verbal Communication in the Context of Intercultural Communication

As human beings, the aspect of communication is vital in day-to-day activities. The essence of communication is to share and exchange ideas, opinions, and thoughts about issues. Intercultural interactions have been made possible through increased globalization and infrastructural advancements. Even with the dominance of cultural differences, individuals have shown the capacity to come together, interact and share opinions and general information. In this context, non-verbal communication has facilitated effective communication among individuals from different cultural backgrounds. Great emphasis has been on using unspoken signs as individuals from diverse cultural settings communicate and other activities (Hardini & Sitohang, 2019). As a result, non-verbal communication l has been essential in achieving social interactions and intercultural communication. This paper, therefore, examines the types of messages communicated non-verbally. Furthermore, definitions and examples of cross-cultural differences, facial expressions, proxemics, and gestures, among others, will be provided in the paper. Lastly, there will be a discussion about the relationship between non-verbal communication and power.

Non-verbal communication mainly involves various activities during communication, including repeating, complementing, accentuating, and contradicting a message conveyed verbally. Non-verbal communication may signal or provide cues of the message being conveyed. However, non-verbal communication may be subject to message distortion through gestures, facial expressions, and mimics, especially in intercultural communication. In any interaction where people demonstrate unclear and ambiguous nonverbal cues, non-verbal communication becomes essential (Hardini & Sitohang, 2019). In this case, the exchange of ideas and opinions may be conducted in different languages because of cultural diversity. In addition, because non-verbal behavior is a product of common cultural sense, we end up understanding messages conveyed in intercultural communication through emotional expression, posture, physical appearance, and silence, among other non-verbal cues.

In an intercultural environment, non-verbal communication plays a crucial role. Conversations in such a setting convey content and literal word meaning. In such an environment, the primary purpose of the nonverbal communication channel is to create a rational sense and carry identity ties. Non-verbal communication and its importance can be tapped from its ability to render a basis for understanding and interpretation of messages communicated verbally. Therefore, in this case, non-verbal communication can lead to clarity or confusion in the message being conveyed.

Nevertheless, verbal communication can establish misinterpretation and friction in a cultural setting. One of the reasons is that different cultures have different ways of interpreting and understanding specific non-verbal cues. Another reason is that non-verbal cues happen simultaneously; hence, capturing the ideal meanings being conveyed may be challenging. Lastly, personality, socioeconomic status, gender, and reasonable distance can create barriers to interpreting non-verbal cues.

To convey messages around emotions, relationships with others, and attitudes, non-verbal communication is essential. Some messages cannot be expressed vocally during interactions, hence the necessity for non-verbal communication. For example, making strong eye contact with another in a busy working environment may significantly mean that “I don’t have time to talk to you; I’m busy.”

One of the types of messages conveyed non-verbally includes facial expressions. Facial expression is essential to communicating emotions without necessarily mentioning a word. Facial expression is, therefore, universal; it facilitates conveying messages of anger, fear, happiness, sadness, and disgust in an intercultural setting (Dash & Davis, n.d). On the other hand, body movement and posture can help communicate perceptions. How individuals carry or move around others may speak some sense. As a conveying message non-verbally, body movement and posture involve subtle movements, posture, and even stance. The gesture is a type of nonverbal communication where individuals in a diversified cultural setting communicate by using their hands when speaking or making arguments. They may also beckon, point, or even wave a hand. A significant challenge that may arise while using gestures in an intercultural setting is that messages can be misinterpreted because different cultures interpret gestures differently. For example, demonstrating “OK” with a hand in an English-speaking nation conveys a message positively. The same is construed as an offense in Brazil and Germany.

Eye contact facilitates the exchange of messages such as affection, attraction, interest, or hostility. In an intercultural context, eye contact is essential in maintaining the flow of messages as one can detect the interests of other parties involved during an interaction.

Cross-cultural differences refer to diversities presented in the family setup and the general structure of the social unit based on ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. Other factors affecting family makeup may include religious beliefs, pressure, and the country’s cultural heritage. An excellent example of cross-cultural difference is the case of Asian couples that have embraced the culture of marrying from the same ethnic or family setup. On the other hand, facial expression can be defined as a way of expressing ideas or messages using eyebrows, facial muscles, or eyes. Examples of messages conveyed through facial expressions include anger, happiness, and sadness (Dash & Davis, n.d). Proxemics demonstrates the role of personal, public, intimate, or social space during social interactions. An example of proxemics is where an individual of high authority communicates to others while standing at a higher height in relation thane. The use of gesture involves the movement of arms, hands, or other body parts intending to convey specific messages. An excellent example of a gesture is waving a hand to another person. This is commonly utilized to say “Hello” (Dash & Davis, n.d). Moreover, some cultures impose space boundaries dung interactions. Especially when speaking to non-intimate, some cultures suggest a distance of between 12 to 18 inches. In this case, it is possible to misinterpret information being conveyed non-verbally. It also creates discomfort among parties of different cultures as they continue to interact. Shortening this distance may be viewed as a violation of the other party’s space bubble.

There exists a relationship between non-verbal communication and power. Power in this can be defined as the tendency to influence others. The relationship between non-verbal communication and power can be traced in personal space and touch, loudness and voice pitch, and physical clothing and appearance (Maloney et al., 2020). For instance, the essence of power in communication establishes boundaries between how children communicate with adults. Through eye-to-eye contact, it is possible to note connections and feelings expressed between children and adults regarding nonverbal communication. To create a strong relationship with children, adults are encouraged to make eye contact or even get to the children’s level and understand the information they are trying to convey (Maloney et al., 2020). Besides, familiarity, affection, and sympathy can be communicated through touch as kinesics cues.

In conclusion, non-verbal communication is essential in many ways, especially in an intercultural setting. I ensure that the parties with different cultural beliefs can understand and interpret information conveyed through gestures, body language, facial expressions, and proxemics. However, non-verbal communication is subject to message misinterpretation. To address such an issue, it is necessary to pay attention and observe non-verbal cues critically. Even though the interpretation of nonverbal cues varies from culture to culture, it is important to understand their context and match the interpretation with the specific cultural setting. Moreover, it is vital to focus on how an individual expresses the message and not what they say. It is possible to gain more significant insights into the cues presented by voice and understand their emotions or feelings.


Dash, B. B., & Davis, K. Significance of Nonverbal Communication and Paralinguistic Features in Communication: A Critical Analysis.

Hardini, S., & Sitohang, R. (2019). The use of language as a sociocultural communication. Jurnal littera: fakultas sastra darma agung1(2), 238-249.

Maloney, D., Freeman, G., & Wohn, D. Y. (2020). “Talking without a Voice” Understanding Non-verbal Communication in Social Virtual Reality. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction4(CSCW2), pp. 1–25.


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