Differences in Interpersonal Nonverbal Communication between the USA and China
The purpose of this research was to find differences in interpersonal nonverbal communication between the USA and China, since nonverbal communication is an important part of doing international business. Students were observed in conversations with other students and lecturers/tutors to gather information in a business context. The participants for the primary research were four Americans and four Chinese and were observed in two different situations. The report supports the view that Americans and Chinese have a similar spatial behavior, but differences in the touch behavior, the gaze behavior and making eye contact, and gestures. These differences can provide fuel for conflicts in cross cultural business.
Table of Contents
1.2 Research question / Purpose
1.4 Background / Literature review
2.0 Sources and Methods
Appendix A – Sample Observation and Questions Sheet
Appendix B – Table of Results
Appendix C – Filled-Out Observation and Questions Sheets – USA Appendix D – Filled-Out Observation and Questions Sheets – China Appendix E – Report Proposal
The topic of this report is a comparison of nonverbal communication of the USA and China. It is based on the cultural differences between the two countries in a business context. 1.2 Research question / Purpose
This report is based on the following research question:
What are the differences in interpersonal nonverbal communication between the USA and China? The purpose is to examine the differences in interpersonal nonverbal communication between the two countries. 1.3 Scope
This report describes the differences in the four main key elements of nonverbal communication (PROXEMICS, HAPTICS, OCULESICS and KINESICS) between USA and China. It considers the impact of cultural differences in this type of communication on the business work life. Additional elements of nonverbal communication such as CHRONEMICS and OLFACTICS are not a part of this report.
1.4 Background / Literature review
It has been argued (Chaney/Martin, 2000) that effective oral and nonverbal communication play an important role in successful cross-cultural business. Although much communication in international business is oral, the nonverbal level can be an important factor of correct understanding and interpreting oral communication. Gesteland (1999) argued that nonverbal communication can be classified in four key elements. The first element is PROXEMICS and stands for spatial behavior and interpersonal distance. The second and third are HAPTICS, the touch behavior and OCULESICS, the gaze behavior and eye contact. The fourth key element is KINESICS and means body movement and gestures. Chaney and Martin added two further elements to Gesteland’s key elements. They described CHRONEMICS as the attitudes toward time and OLFACTICS as a person’s smell. The cultural differences or also similarities in the four main key elements between the USA and China were shown by Chaney and Martin as well as by Gesteland as follows: Firstly, both countries show similar spatial behavior. Only Latin American and Latin European people get closer together in conversations. Secondly, North Americans do much more ‘backslapping’ and have firmer handshakes than Asians. Thirdly, in the USA direct eye contact is much more common.
Last but not least, some gestures have different meanings in each country. For every single element of nonverbal communication we have to be aware that the speaker does not use these signals in isolation. The listener is confronted with a mixed cocktail...
References: Andersen, Peter A & Wang, Hua 2006: Intercultural Communication [A READER], 11th edn, Thomson Wadsworth, Belmont.
Beamer, Linda & Varner, Iris 2005: Intercultural Communication in the Global Workplace, 3rd edn, McGraw-Hill, New York.
Chaney, Lillian H & Martin, Jeanette S 2000: Intercultural Business Communication, 2nd edn, Prentice Hall, New Jersey.
Gesteland, Richard R 1999: Cross-Cultural Business Behavior, Copenhagen Business School Press, Copenhagen.
Mead, Richard 2005: International Management, 3rd edn, Blackwell Publishing, Malden.
Trompenaars, F. 1993: Riding the Waves of Culture, Nicholas Brealey, London.
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