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Chinese Nonverbal Communication

Education component
by

Tara Larochelle

on 23 March 2013

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Transcript of Chinese Nonverbal Communication

Understanding Chinese
Nonverbal Communication Introduction It is important to understand some basic nonverbal communication patterns of foreign-born Chinese speakers so that we can begin to navigate the "maze" of effective cross-cultural communication.

Understanding and empathizing with another culture does not mean that we are trying to slow the learning and immersion process for these New Canadians, but rather, it is through understanding and knowledge that we can create a respectful, engaging and inclusive learning environment. It is impossible to explain all of the nuances of Chinese nonverbal communication during this training program; therefore, we will be exploring some basic features of the following nonverbal elements, as they relate to Chinese communication:
Eye Contact
Gesture
Posture
Proximity
Emotion Eye Contact Eye contact is considered a sign of respect and attentiveness in American cultures (Sadri & Flammia, 2011, p.164)
Eye contact in Chinese culture is considered disrespectful and rude (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2010, p.302)
The Chinese are very respectful of their superiors and their elders, and therefore, excessive eye contact between student and teacher is considered inappropriate, as it portrays the student and teacher as equals (Samovar et al., 2010, p.302) Gesture Speakers from different cultures may gesture differently, and gestures don't always (and rarely do) translate (So, 2010, p.1336).
The Chinese gesture substantially less than Americans when communicating or telling stories (So, 2010, p.1343).
The reason for this difference is that the Chinese culture is focused on Confucianism, which teaches that harmony, calmness and control is the most important of virtues. Therefore, Chinese speakers are physically and emotionally reserved when expressing themselves and communicating with others. More on Gestures Bowing slightly to professors or elders is common and expected;
Strangers do not touch because it is overly intimate, however, friends can be very physically affectionate (holding hands etc...);
Pointing is considered rude;
Nodding is a sign of acknowledgment and not a sign of agreement (when asking a student to speak, nod in their direction, do not point at them!);
Touching of the arm, back or head is not a compliment and is highly offensive (Lang-8, 2009). Posture and Proximity Posture:
Chinese are very formal and attentive in their posture;
Slouching, slumping or resting feet on chairs is considered offensive (Lang-8, 2009). Emotion The Chinese culture is less visibly expressive with emotions than American culture, but this is not to suggest that Chinese people do not have the same broad and complex range of emotions that Americans have.

The Confucianism influence on their culture teaches that self-control is a virtue, and so the Chinese are much more controlled in their visible displays of emotion (Tian, 2008, p.526). Congratulations! You now have a basic understanding of how
Chinese speakers communicate non verbally
using:

Eye Contact (minimal);
Gesture (respectful, reserved);
Posture (formal);
Proximity (fairly close);
and Emotion (minimal displays). Understanding Key Features of Chinese Nonverbal Communication Proximity:
Typically, Chinese stand closer to each other when speaking than Americans do;
Historically, people with seniority stand or sit higher than people of inferior social standing (Lang-8, 2009). References Lang-8. (2009) Chinese nonverbal communication. Retrieved March 22, 2013 from https://www.lang-8.com/86540/journals/312970/Chinese-Nonverbal-Communication.

Sadri, H. & Flammia, M. (2011). Intercultural communication: A new approach to international relations and global challenges. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group.

Samovar, L., Porter, R. & McDaniel, E. (2010). Communication between cultures. Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd.

So, W.C. (2010). Cross-cultural transfer in gesture frequency in Chinese-English bilinguals. Language and Cognitive Processes, 25(10): 1335-1353. Retrieved from library.mtroyal.ca:3086/doi/pdf/10.1080/01690961003694268
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