Cultural Body Language

It has been estimated that there are more than 700,000 body language gestures (the 'words' of non-verbal communication). Compare this with the English language, which comprises some 38,000 most commonly used words and it becomes clear how powerful non-verbal communication is. The power of body language becomes even more apparent when combinations of gestures called clusters (the 'sentences' of non-verbal communication) are considered. Within the last few years the American clinical psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman published his findings regarding facial expressions. His research highlighted the fact that the human face alone can portray some 3500 different feelings or emotions - without any speech! The vast majority of body language is instinctive or inborn. Unless trained, people of all cultures (both male and female) use this non-verbal communication unconsciously. There are, however, gestures which are very specific to certain cultures.According to the well-known social anthropologist Desmond Morris there are at least 2800 body language signals, which are neither instinctive nor inborn but commonly used to communicate a variety of messages within certain cultural communities. Unlike the majority of body language signals, these cultural signals have been learnt and are used consciously; the gestures were observed and copied. We live in a multi-cultural society so it is very important to understand the varied meanings of cultural body language when we interact with people of different cultures. Common and widely used examples include the thumb up sign and the 'O' for OK (created by touching the index finger to the thumb to form a circle). While such signs have positive universal meanings and may be used innocently they would be considered very rude among some communities.A particularly important example for Westerners to understand when conducting business in the Middle East region (and indeed in Thailand) is how a man sits. It is very common in most cultures for a man to sit with one leg casually crossed over the other leg which exposes the sole of a shoe. Pointing the sole of one's shoe, even unwittingly, to an Arab would almost certainly be considered to be the ultimate insult to that person.


This article was written by Tony Morris, a body language expert whose training is normally reserved EXCLUSIVELY for large multi-national corporations. I am bringing Tony to Australia and New Zealand during April & May 2012 for the first time ever to deliver a series of public workshops of his unique body language training called TorsoTalk™ - "if you can't see it, you're not listening!!"©. In between the public dates Tony is available for a limited number of speaking engagements, media interviews, and 'in-house' workshops. You can find out more at public TorsoTalk™ workshops are presented in partnership with CleverX - Virtual Business Incubators and Inkom - Wealth Management.

About Tony Morris

Tony Morris is a Body Language Expert, Executive Coach & Mentor, and World Class Sales Trainer.Tony has trained more than 16,000 people in 59 countries in Body Language for business and their personal lives. He has also coached and mentored business leaders in Africa, Australia, Europe, the UK, and the USA.As an independent trainer Tony led Microsoft's move from product to solution sales by training the sales teams throughout the Middle East and Africa over a 6 year period. He originally developed his "Enterprise Solution Sales" training programme for Microsoft's Partner Academy and trained in excess of 400 Microsoft Partner companies.
I trust this has been valuable.Kind regards,PaulPaul