Intercultural Non-Verbal Communication

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

Attitudes Create the Relationship

A fundamental aspect of negotiation, often overlooked, is the non-verbal communication that takes place between the participants. Body language can express a great variety of meanings, which “ooze” and burst into the negotiation even without the direct control of the subjects.

The negotiator careful to measure words may be little aware of the non-verbal level, and of the “underground” exchange of messages that the body and facial expressions let filter through. The main channels through which the negotiator can launch messages are composed of the paralinguistic system (vocal aspects of communication, excluding the linguistic aspect, such as tones, accents, silences, interjections), body language (body language ), and personal accessories, including clothing and general look.

In order to negotiate at an intercultural level, it is necessary to create a relationship, and bodily attitudes are able to strongly express the satisfaction of the interlocutor, as well as disgust and emotional suffering. The perceived attitude in the other depends largely on “how” the behavior is expressed, rather than on the linguistic content, which remains on the surface of the relationship itself. In depth, the relationship is determined by the attitudes of the body and face, by the looks, by the facial expressions, and more generally by the whole non-verbal repertoire of the communicator.

For example, it has been noted that it is easier to say “you” to someone wearing an unbuttoned tie rather than a strictly tied tie. Obviously, the fact of being “soft” or not rigorous in clothing creates a feeling of less rigidity and greater tolerance towards friendly behavior. This does not mean wearing a tie fastened or unfastened, but simply confirming that attitudes affect the relationship, and that among attitudes there are also apparent details such as the degree of fastening of a tie, or the rigor of clothing.

But, at the same time, it can be seen that an unfastened tie is acceptable in Italian management (a sign of relaxed attitude) or in American management (a sign of a “busy” attitude, of those who work hard), while it is much less acceptable in German management. , or in companies with a high degree of formalization of hierarchies. Therefore, the intercultural negotiator must always consider the possibility that some signals of attitude used in his own culture are caught in a diametrically opposite way in a different culture.

Escalation and de-exclalation: managing the non-verbal to develop a communicative climate and reduce tension

Wrong non-verbal and bodily attitudes can easily lead to an escalation (rise in tension, nervousness and irritation), while the task of the intercultural negotiator is to create de-escalation: moderation of tones, relaxed atmosphere, favorable environment for negotiation. Only settings in which tension is intentionally created, which are not the norm and must be treated separately, as special techniques to be used with caution, are excluded from these principles. The general objective of intercultural negotiation is to be effective and achieve results, which generally involves a climate of cooperation.

The objective of the intercultural negotiator is to activate the conflict deescalation procedures “by default” (as the starting position of every negotiation), the practices that lead to a non-conflictual negotiation situation. What are these practices? In general, each culture uses different non-verbal rules, and therefore a manual would be needed for each nation or culture with which to deal.

The problem with these “easy manuals” is their poor resistance over time (cultures evolve) and in space (cultures change even within a few kilometers and in social strata within the same city), and the concrete possibility – taking them for good – to apply stereotypes that are no longer valid. In the absence of precise indications that come from up-to-date connoisseurs of the culture itself, we can use as a starting point some general rules of good communication to reduce the potential for error, as exposed by the Public Policy Center of the University of Nebraska:

  • calm, non-aggressive tone of voice;
  • smile, express acceptance of the other;
  • facial expression of interest;
  • open gestures;
  • allow the person you are talking to to dictate the spatial distances between you (spatial distances vary widely from culture to culture);
  • nod, give nods of assent;
  • focus on people and not on documents on the table;
  • bend the body forward as a sign of interest;
  • maintains
Intercultural Negotiation Arab Edition

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

For further information see:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s