Dalle espressioni facciali ai movimenti del corpo

© Articolo tradotto dal libro “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, pubblicato con il permesso dell’autore. I diritti del libro sono in vendita e sono disponibili per qualsiasi Editore che voglia prenderlo in considerazione per la pubblicazione in inglese e in altre lingue ad eccezione dell’italiano e dell’arabo, i cui diritti sono già stati venduti e pubblicati. Se siete interessati a pubblicare il libro in inglese, o in qualsiasi altra lingua, o se cercate Formazione alla Negoziazione Interculturale, Coaching, Mentoring e Consulenza, non esitate a contattare l’autore dal sito web www.danieletrevisani.com

Il corpo comunica, esprime emozioni e sentimenti, e ogni tentativo di bloccarli rappresenta esso stesso un metamessaggio: una persona che non mostra alcuna emozione, che si comporta come fosse una “mummia emotiva” è un segnale che conduce a specifiche riflessioni. Il linguaggio del corpo riguarda:

  • Espressioni facciali;
  • Movimenti del capo;
  • Movimenti degli arti e gestualità;
  • Movimenti del corpo e distanze;
  • Tatto e contatto fisico.

Esistono differenze culturali molto ampie a questo proposito: ogni cultura ha particolari peculiarità riguardo alle differenti tipologie di gestualità; in una trattativa italo-cinese, si possono notare evidenti differenze tra la gestualità italiana, generalmente più spiccata, e quella cinese, più contenuta, così come per le espressioni facciali, più evidenti per l’Italia e meno per la Cina.

Un negoziatore che opera in Cina può quindi scegliere se limitare la propria gestualità ed espressività per smorzare l’immagine stereotipata associata alla propria cultura, o, al contrario, aumentarla teatralmente, per “recitare una parte” e amplificare la sua identità. Non esiste una regola più valida di altre sulla modalità di azione: ogni scelta è strategica e legata al contesto del momento, alla propria “adeguatezza contestuale”.

Il contatto fisico è uno degli elementi più critici da gestire a livello interculturale. A questo proposito, alcuni standard occidentali si stanno diffondendo nella business community (per esempio, la stretta di mano), ma ogni cultura esprime un grado differente di contatto nei saluti e nelle interazioni. Abbracciare, baciare, toccare, sapere chi può toccare chi, rappresenta un elemento critico, risolvibile ricorrendo soprattutto ad un’analisi della cultura locale. Generalmente, se impossibilitati a raccogliere informazioni precise da esperti, è consigliabile limitare il contatto fisico per evitare di risultare invadenti.

DISTANZE PERSONALI

La prossemica definisce “le osservazioni e le teoria riguardanti l’utilizzo dello spazio umano, inteso come un’elaborazione specifica della cultura” (Hall, 1988). Nei suoi studi, Hall evidenzia come le distanze siano elaborazioni prettamente culturali, gestite diversamente a seconda del luogo in cui ci si trovi. Sul fronte della negoziazione, le implicazioni sono numerose: essere vicini o lontani dall’interlocutore implica un preciso messaggio negoziale; trovarsi di fronte o di lato, o addirittura dalla stessa parte, rappresenta un diverso tipo di messaggio. Ogni cultura possiede regole non scritte per delimitare i confini dell’accettabilità delle distanze interpersonali e delle inclinazioni dei singoli. Anche in questo caso vale il principio di ricorrere alla conoscenza degli esperti della cultura locale; in mancanza di questa possibilità, si può lasciare che sia la controparte a definire il proprio grado di distanza, senza forzare avvicinamenti o allontanamenti.

La principale consapevolezza da sviluppare è quella della “distanza critica” (Hall), che definisce la distanza interpersonale entro la quale un soggetto si sente vulnerabile, esposto ad eventuali aggressioni. Le distanze critiche umane derivano dal mondo animale e posseggono un alto peso culturale, che vede le culture arabe e latine spesso più vicine rispetto a quella anglosassone, reputata più distante.

La distanza personale è come “una bolla invisibile che circonda il corpo”. Al di là delle norme interculturali, determinati atteggiamenti relativi alle distanze sono trasversali alle culture perché ancorati alla radice animale umana. Per esempio, il “lasciare il proprio posto”, dando spazio a qualcuno, è una maniera per assegnare uno status e riconoscere l’importanza dell’interlocutore. Come sottolinea Hall, gli individui più forti e superiori tendono a stabilire distanze interpersonali maggiori rispetto a soggetti che occupano posizioni inferiori nella gerarchia sociale; inoltre, è noto che coloro definiti più deboli cedano il passo ai superiori.

Pertanto, a livello interculturale, lasciare il proprio posto rappresenterà una tattica di avvicinamento, il riconoscimento di uno status. Per il negoziatore esperto, questo atto non rappresenta sottomissione, ma assume anche la funzione di mossa strategica, un atto di cortesia relazionale che precede il confronto negoziale vero e proprio. Al contrario, mettere a disagio l’interlocutore comporta lo stabilirsi di una distanza.

Alcuni negoziatori utilizzano tattiche specifiche mirate a sconvolgere l’equilibrio emotivo di un soggetto: far attendere per molto tempo persone in sale d’attesa strette e troppo calde, senza bagni o con i servizi lontani è un esempio di “mossa di rottura”. Per esempio, se un soggetto ha intrapreso un lungo viaggio, la tentazione di andarsene sarà frenata dal pensiero di aver compiuto un viaggio inutili e da eventuali ripercussioni derivanti dal suo agire.

La tattica più appropriata è richiedere un maggior livello di comfort, ma solo qualora si abbia la certezza quasi matematica che determinate azioni e tecniche siano in corso e che quelle a cui si è sottoposti non siano le reali condizioni massime di ospitalità che il soggetto è in grado di offrire. Generalmente, la disposizione frontale delle persone è considerata conflittuale, mentre lo stare a lato è simbolo di maggiore collaborazione. Come afferma Hall, “ogni animale ha bisogno di uno spazio critico, in assenza del quale la sua sopravvivenza risulta impossibile”. In termini di negoziazione, lo spazio da considerare ha natura tanto ambientale quanto psicologica.

Intercultural Negotiation Arab Edition

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Non-Verbal Intercultural Communication (part 2)

© 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 

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In this second part I would like to continue talking about non-verbal communication and its characteristics, this time focusing on training, sensory perception, personal look and colour, while explaining the importance of identifying assonances and dissonances between verbal and non-verbal language.

Training

Training on the use of paralinguistic elements means learning the strategic use of pauses and tones. It includes many repertoires of theatrical and actor techniques, such as the Stanislavskij method, probably the only one truly capable of transforming expressive behaviours.

Without adequate preparation the chances of being competitive on the negotiating level decrease. As the gap between our training level and the training level of the counterpart increases, the risk of an unfavourable outcome during a negotiation grows.

Sensory Perceptions

Some clichés spreading in multicultural college campuses are that whites “taste like chicken”, Asians “smell of garlic”, blacks “taste of sweat”, etc.

The olfactory differences on an ethnic and genetic level do exist, but the perceived smell is largely determined by cultural factors such as nutrition, cleanliness or the use of perfumes.

Personal olfactory emissions are a communication tool.

It is certain that the sense of smell affects perception, and that food produces essences that exude from the skin and breath. If we want to manage even the smallest details of intercultural negotiation and, more generally, of the human contact, we must take care of these aspects.

Anything that can be attributed to the subject or to the corporate environment affects perception and image. Some clothing chains have resorted to the targeted deodorization of shops to create a more relaxed and pleasant atmosphere (environmental olfactory marketing).

Smell is a remote sense of the human being, partially abandoned in favour of senses such as sight and hearing. Animal “noses” are able to pick up smells that signal sexual emotions or predispositions, while human noses seem to have lost this trait.

There are practical implications for conscious personal deodorization: avoid foods that can produce strong breath emissions, avoid excessive personal fragrances, be aware of personal odours (e.g. sweat) and consider the importance of olfactory environmental marketing.

Personal Look

We usually know nothing about people’s real history. We can only assume it by looking at the symbols they decide to show us. There are signs/symbols everywhere: on the interlocutor and in his/her communicative space. Symbolic communication concerns the meanings that people associate to and perceive from those particular “signs”. By communicative space we mean any area linked to the subject’s “system”, such as his/her car, or the background of his/her computer, and any other sign from which we derive information, meanings and interpretations.

From a semiotic point of view, every element from which a subject draws meaning becomes a “sign”, whether the bearer is aware of it or not.

Look, clothing and accessories are among the most incisive factors that build one’s personal image.

Differences or similarities in clothing, for example, can put a person inside a professional ingroup (“one like us”, an “equal”) or an outgroup (“one different from us”), depending of the meaning that the word “us” has for the interlocutor.

In a widened signification system, the symbols associated to the brands used, the type of car, and even the office furniture, can become very important.

chronemic behaviours (the string of actions over time) are also broadened signals related to how frequently we change clothes, punctuality, way of driving (calm or nervous), way of eating (slow and relaxed vs. fast and voracious), etc.

Even considering the time a person takes in answering a question can be significant: slow or overly thoughtful responses can be interpreted as insincere in Western cultures or wise in Eastern cultures.

It can be said that in the field of intercultural communication nothing escapes the observation of the interlocutor, and every “sign” contributes to its classification and evaluation.

Colours

An additional element of symbolic communication is colour. The use of colours and the symbolisms associated with colours also vary according to cultures.

It is not possible to list all possible associations for every colour in each country, but I would like to underline the importance of paying attention to the symbolisms associated with colours, because there are many problems that could arise when choosing colours and graphics, for example in packaging, in business gifts and in objects.

Even objects and symbols are not neutral: an Italian company, for example, used the symbol of an open hand to create the company logo and key rings, producing a wave of protests in Greece, where the open hand symbol is used to offend.

The basic principle to avoid macroscopic errors is the use of pre-tests: a “pilot test” on some member of the local culture, who are able to give a feedback on the appropriateness of colours, shapes and symbolisms within their cultural context.

The pre-test method also applies to the choice of gifts, presents, and any other symbolic action whose impact may vary on a cultural basis.

Consonances and Dissonances between Verbal and Non-Verbal Language

Non-verbal communication can reinforce the verbal message or be dissonant with it.

Listening carefully and nodding can express interest more than just a verbal statement. Saying “I’m interested” with words and expressing boredom or disgust with body actions produces a dissonant signal and creates suspicion or irritation.

The coherence (matching) between words and actions:

  • increases the subject’s perceived honesty;
  • denotes trustworthiness;
  • shows interest;
  • shows that we are in control of the situation;
  • produces a sense of security and solidity of content.

On the contrary, the incongruity:

  • creates a sense of mistrust;
  • generates a feeling of lack of authenticity;
  • produces doubts and suspicions, because the heard verbal content is considered false.

Each linguistic style (on an interpersonal level) is associated with a precise modulation of the non-verbal style. We can indeed have:

  • situations of communicative reinforcement (the non-verbal style reinforces the verbal style);
  • situations of dissonance or inconsistency between verbal and non-verbal communication: the non-verbal language is on a different register than the verbal one.

The dissonances concern every semiotic system, every sign that carries a meaning. A company that declares itself important and does not have a website, or has an amateur website, expresses an incongruent image of itself.

"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© 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 

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For further information see:

Non-Verbal Intercultural Communication (part 1)

© 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 

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In the next two articles we are going to deal with non-verbal communication and its characteristics: in fact, the non-verbal language can deeply affect the result of an intercultural negotiation both positively and negatively, even though it is often a neglected aspect of communication.

The main channels through which the negotiator can send messages are the paralinguistic system (vocal aspects of communication, such as tones, accents, silences, interjections), the body language (body language), and personal accessories, including clothing and the general look.

To negotiate at an intercultural level, it is necessary to create a relationship. Body movements and attitudes can strongly express the interlocutor’s satisfaction, as well as his/her disgust and emotional suffering.

We perceive the interlocutor’s attitude through his/her behaviour, rather than through the linguistic content, which remains on the relationship surface. In depth, one’s relationship is determined by body and face movements, looks, facial expressions, and, generally, by the communicator’s complete non-verbal repertoire.

The intercultural negotiator, however, must always consider the fact that some non-verbal signals cane be perceived differently by another culture, sometimes even in an opposite way.

Wrong non-verbal and body attitudes can easily lead to an escalation (rise in tension, nervousness and irritation), while the task of an intercultural negotiator is to create a de-escalation: moderation of tones, relaxed atmosphere, favourable environment for negotiation.

The general objective of every intercultural negotiation is, in fact, achieving results, but, in order to do so, a climate of cooperation is needed.

The intercultural negotiator must therefore activate some conflict de-escalation procedures, practices that lead to a non-conflictual negotiation situation.

But what are these practices? In general, each culture uses different non-verbal rules, and therefore we would need for each nation or culture with which we deal.

The problem with these “easy manuals” is their poor resistance over time (cultures evolve) and in space (cultures change even within a few kilometres). Moreover, if you take them as rules, there is a real possibility to apply stereotypes, that are no longer valid.

When there is no specific indication that come from up-to-date experts of a particular culture, we can use some general rules of good communication, which can help us reduce errors, as exposed by the Public Policy Centre of the University of Nebraska:

  • use a calm, non-aggressive tone of voice;
  • smile, express acceptance;
  • use facial expression of interest;
  • use open gestures;
  • allow the person you are talking to dictate the spatial distances (spatial distances vary widely between cultures);
  • nod, give nods of agreement;
  • focus on people and not on documents;
  • bend your body forward as a sign of interest;
  • maintain a relaxed attitude;
  • hold an L-shaped position;
  • sit by your interlocutor’s side, not in front of him/her, because that is a confrontational position.

I would like to highlight that these general rules are only “possible options” and must be adapted to culture and context.

While talking about the non-verbal language it is impossible not to mention the body language. Our body speaks, expresses emotions and feelings.

The body language concerns:

  • facial expressions;
  • nods;
  • limbs movements and gestures;
  • body movements and social distance;
  • physical contact.

Cultural differences related to this area of communication can be deep. There are no golden rules teaching us what’s best: each choice is strategic and linked to the context (“contextual appropriateness“).

Physical contact, for example, is one of the most critical elements: while some Western standards of physical contact spread throughout the entire business community (e.g. shaking hands), every culture expresses a different degree of contact during greetings and interactions.

In general, if it is not possible to collect accurate information from experts of the local culture, it is advisable to limit physical contact in order not to generate a sense of invasiveness.

The study “of observations and theories concerning the use of human space, seen as a specific elaboration of culture” (Hall, 1988) is defined by proxemics.

On the negotiation front, the implications are numerous, since every culture has unwritten rules to define the boundaries of acceptability of interpersonal distances. In this case too, resorting to experts of the local culture is fundamental. If we do not have this possibility, then a valid rule is to let the other party define their own degree of distance, without forcing either an approach or a removal.

Human critical distances have an animal basis and a strong cultural variance: for example, Arab and Latin cultures are often “closer”, while Anglo-Saxon cultures are more “distant”.

Another element of non-verbal language, that we must consider, is the paralinguistic system. Paralinguistics concerns all vocal emissions that are not strictly related to “words”, and includes:

  • tone of the voice;
  • volume;
  • silences;
  • pauses;
  • rhythm of speech;
  • interjections (short vocal emissions, like “er”, “uhm”, etc.).

Paralinguistics establishes speech punctuation and helps convey emotional information.

To be continued…

"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© 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 

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For further information see: