Language barriers and the importance of body language.


perspaceMost of us have been in a situation in which there is a dispute over an issue or the events around a particular situation. Some are quickly resolved through good communication and others are not.

As people get animated, voices are raised and tempers flare, it is very difficult, even under the best of circumstances, to get cooler heads to prevail and to communicate calmly and resolve the situation amicably.

Take the same situation and have it unfold in a foreign country where there is a language barrier, and what might have been readily resolved through dialog now becomes more complex. An example might be a misunderstanding between you and a street vendor over a purchase you have just made.

Communication experts tell us that well over 50 % of how we communicate is through body language. If you ever do find yourself in a dispute in a country where those around you do not understand the language you speak, remember, your next best means of communicating is with the “language of your body”.

All too often a traveler who has a legitimate complaint or concern, with all good intention makes his or her case only to find they are getting nowhere due to the language barrier. This leaves them frustrated and as the failing attempt at dialog continues; their frustrations are increasingly transmitted through their actions of their body.

The other party and any law enforcement officials who may have arrived to investigate have only your body language to read since they do not understand what is being said. For them this is like watching a commercial with the sound muted. All intended frame of reference is lost and the observer jumps to conclusions from what they are seeing, not hearing.

If you become highly animated in your frustration and facial expressions start to exude anger or aggression, this is exactly what it is read to be, and there is a good chance you will be taken to a police station for further questioning or escalate the situation in general.

So keep in mind, that no matter how frustrated you feel if such a situation were to occur, it is critical to maintain a nice calm posture, friendly facial expressions, and relaxed shoulders. Deeper belly breathing also helps one stay calm. Not raising your voice and maintaining pleasant and friendly eye contact with all parties involved also shows your respect. Humble body language also projects a message that you are doing your best to respect and honor their culture.

Pleasant body language projects kindness and kindness is understood universally.

Larry Kaminer

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