The Importance of Nonverbal Communication

Language is one of the most effective means of communication that people use to pass along explicit information. In any conversation, nonverbal messages indicate how individuals feel about each other or how they want to be understood. Nonverbal communication is important because it is used to relay interpersonal messages. Behaviors like posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, and posture are indicators of how an individual perceives the other person in a conversation. Therefore, they are usually representations of status and power. In addition, they can be used to communicate deception. In the context of multicultural communication, nonverbal behaviors are important because they convey meaning and intention, improve people’s ability to relate, and enhance the comprehension of messages.

There are several nonverbal functions in intercultural communication: regulation of interactions, management of impressions, provision of information, expression of emotions, and the conveyance of relationship messages (Chapter 8, n.d.). Physical appearance, environment, body movements, personal space, and territoriality are examples of factors that influence the effectiveness of non-verbal communication. For instance, body movements like facial expressions and gestures can be used to express emotion in cases where linguistic barriers exist (Martin & Nakayama, 2018). Many cultures form nonverbal cues that represent specific behaviors or responses that can be understood by other people during conversations. Therefore, it is important to study and understand other cultures because many use nonverbal communication to pass messages about their values (Martin & Nakayama, 2018). For example, facial expressions are used by different cultures to pass certain messages. In the United States, smiling is an expression of politeness and friendliness (Chapter 8, n.d.). However, it has a different meaning in South Korea, where it expresses shallowness. Also, eye contact is a sign of respect in the US while it is a sign of disrespect in South Korea. Knowing how to use nonverbal cues properly is key to effective intercultural communication.

Nonverbal communication is approached and interpreted differently in various cultures. The main variances include display rules, elucidations, and repertoires (Chapter 8, n.d.). Proper understanding of how certain nonverbal cues are used, when they are permitted or prohibited, as well as the messages they convey is important in intercultural communication. This means that accurate comprehension of the meanings that are ascribed to certain nonverbal patterns is necessary. There are three main reasons why poor understanding of non-verbal communication can cause intercultural misunderstanding and conflict. First, verbal cues have diverse meanings in different cultures (Martin & Nakayama, 2018). Second, in a conversation, several signals are used and play varied roles in the interpretation of verbal messages. Third, nonverbal communication has distinct rules that ensure effective communication, and they are based on factors like gender, socioeconomic status, and social affiliation.

Nonverbal communication in the context of intercultural communication is important in the establishment and maintenance of interpersonal relationships. Nonverbal codes are usually subconscious and spontaneous, and include all communication that does not involve words (Chapter 8, n.d.). Moreover, it is multichanneled and multifunctional. It occurs in many ways and can achieve several goals at the same time. The ability to increase expressivity through non-verbal communication is important in forming relationships with people from other cultures. The use of congruent cues creates emotional connections that establish and grow intercultural relationships (Martin & Nakayama, 2018). Nonverbal communication is very important, especially in situations where interpersonal relationships progress to the phase of emotional connection. They are key ingredients in conducting high-quality interactions that are characterized by mutual understanding and respect. Moreover, they help in maintaining relationships by helping individuals to communicate their emotions, express their intentions, and seek emotional support.

Nonverbal communication plays an important role in intercultural conversations because it bridges the gap between being misunderstood and conveying authenticity. This is particularly important in situations where translation and interpretation is necessary. Some subtle messages that a speaker intends to pass along to the listener could be lost in between conversations (Martin & Nakayama, 2018). Nonverbal communication is an effective tool for bridging the linguistic gap in order to ensure that the message is understood clearly. Cues such as smiles and nods are examples of back channel communication that show a person’s intentions (Chapter 8, n.d.). In that regard, people use them to convey emotions and express agreement as well as disagreement. Several cross-cultural studies have suggested that facial expressions are universal. For example, emotions of anger, sadness, happiness, fear, disgust, and excitement are expressed in a similar manner in almost all cultures.

Nonverbal communication plays a key role in the context of multicultural interactions. Different cultures use various physical movements and gestures to convey messages about themselves and their values. They can either lead to an agreement or a disagreement. Nonverbal communication helps to regulate conversations, convey subtle meanings, create and maintain friendships, express emotions, and manage impressions. The universality of nonverbal cues improves the quality of communication because of enhanced understanding. However, differences in the meaning of certain behavior patterns could cause misunderstandings and conflicts between people from diverse cultures. It is important to study the cues that various cultures use in nonverbal communication, as well as their meanings.


Chapter 8: Nonverbal intercultural communication. (n.d.). Web.

Martin, j. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2018). Intercultural communication in contexts (7th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

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