Body language, cross-cultural communication, Trump etc…

I see Tony Abbott has gone into bat for The Donald. That figures…

Mr Abbott defended Mr Trump’s policies, which include building a wall between Mexico and the United States to repel migrants, as reasonable.

“Many of the Trump positions are reasonable enough,” he said.

Mind you, I don’t entirely disagree with what Tony Abbott says there about T’s supporters. It is worth reading David A Hill Jr, I Listened to a Trump Supporter.

She was a family friend, a good person. In rural Ohio, everything was tight. Money, jobs. If you really needed quick cash, she’d put you to work doing landscaping. She’d pay fairly and reliably for the area.

She’s voting for Donald Trump. I disagree with her choice, but I understand why she rejects Clinton so fiercely, and why she’s been swept up in Donald Trump’s particular brand of right-wing populism. I feel that on the left, it’s increasingly easy to ignore these people, to disregard them, to write them off as racists, bigots, or uneducated. I think that’s a loss for everyone involved, and that sometimes listening can help you to at least understand why a person is making the choices they make, so you can work on the root causes.

Hat tip to Alex Au in Singapore for that article.

Meanwhile The Donald himself lately does seem to be verging on the barking mad:

Florida: Donald Trump has denied a slew of new allegations of sexually predatory behaviour in an angry diatribe of speech in Florida, accusing the women who made them of fabrication and the media outlets that published them as being party to a conspiracy against him…

Mr Trump claimed a variety of forces including the Clintons and the media were seeking to rig the US election.

“Their agenda is to elect crooked Hillary Clinton at any cost, at any price, no matter how many lives they destroy. For them, it’s a war. And for them, nothing at all is out of bounds,” he said.

“This is a struggle for the survival of our nation. Believe me. And this will be our last chance to save it on November 8. Remember that.”

Sorry. Did I really say “verging on” then?

OK, back to that second debate. I found myself riveted all through – yes I watched the whole show – by the body language, especially The Donald’s. What a study in proxemics!

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Pure monstering. The stills barely capture the effect that the pacing and scowling communicated. Not a nice man.

All that had me thinking again of what I learned from the 1990s on in my ESL studies and practice about cross-cultural communication, and the topic in fact came up earlier this week in conversation at Diggers with someone who spent considerable time in PNG and S-E Asia. A summary directed at business people is Different Cultural Communication Styles.

Factoring in personal space expectations between cultures enhances communication in any social or business setting. While Northern Europeans and European Americans feel most comfortable at an arm’s length away in a social interaction, Hispanics would consider that distance unfriendly. Knowing what is expected is helpful. Eye contact and touch etiquette also vary dramatically in different cultures. Asian cultures do not believe in touching in public settings, and they don’t favor direct eye contact. Like the Asian culture, Hispanics also view direct eye contact as a lack of respect. One significant difference between these two cultures is the way touching in public is perceived. Hispanics are a “high touch” society. Before meeting with a different culture, it is best to learn about these etiquette considerations.

That’s just one aspect. Oriented to schools is Communicating Across Cultures from the Victorian Education Department.

Interpretations of verbal communication can be culturally based. Misunderstandings can easily arise. For example in some cultures:

  • It is impolite to speak without being specifically asked by a superior, thus some students will not say hello, will not volunteer answers and will not answer generally directed questions.
  • It is not appropriate to refuse a request, thus saying ‘yes’ may mean ‘I am listening’, or ‘maybe’, or ‘no’. Avoidance behaviour rather than contradiction is used i.e. not doing what is requested is the polite response, as opposed to saying directly ‘no’.
  • Direct confrontation is to be avoided. It is more important to maintain the relationship, then to find an answer to an immediate disputed issue or problem. This contrasts with the anglo-Australian approach of trying to resolve issues by frank and open discussion of the disputed issue, clearly stating personal needs and preferences and direct bargaining tactics focusing on an immediate solution.
  • Asking questions when you already know the answer, which is a common teaching technique in Australia, can indicate a lack of intelligence in some cultures.

Then at the levels prom personal to international relations see the course Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts, particularly Michelle Le Baron, Cross-Cultural Communication.

The challenge is that even with all the good will in the world, miscommunication is likely to happen, especially when there are significant cultural differences between communicators. Miscommunication may lead to conflict, or aggravate conflict that already exists. We make — whether it is clear to us or not — quite different meaning of the world, our places in it, and our relationships with others. In this module, cross-cultural communication will be outlined and demonstrated by examples of ideas, attitudes, and behaviors involving four variables:

  • Time and Space
  • Fate and Personal Responsibility
  • Face and Face-Saving
  • Nonverbal Communication

As our familiarity with these different starting points increases, we are cultivating cultural fluency — awareness of the ways cultures operate in communication and conflict, and the ability to respond effectively to these differences.

In a multicultural society in an even more multicultural world these are areas we all need familiarity with. Back to proxemics:

The difficulty with space preferences is not that they exist, but the judgments that get attached to them. If someone is accustomed to standing or sitting very close when they are talking with another, they may see the other’s attempt to create more space as evidence of coldness, condescension, or a lack of interest. Those who are accustomed to more personal space may view attempts to get closer as pushy, disrespectful, or aggressive. Neither is correct — they are simply different.

Mind you, Trump was being “pushy, disrespectful, or aggressive”!

Related: My 1998 UTS Grad Cert TESOL assignment A Japanese Backpacker’s year in Australia may even amuse you.

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