Culture can be a source of miscommunication

A problem in understanding non-verbal communication is that the meaning of many movements and gestures are culturally determined. Verbal and non-verba language differs from one culture to another. These differences can lead to quite serious misunderstanding. Research carried out by Cumpertz et al in 1979 found that the way Asian People speak English in Britain can lead to incorrect judgement of aggressiveness being made about them. People from the Mediterranean generally stand closer, touch more and engage on more eye contact than English people. In some cultures you look down as a mark of respect where a more senior person is questioning you. Just as animals stake out and guard territory, so do humans. Edward T. Hall was one of the pioneers in the study on man’s spatial needs and he described four distinct zones that people unconsciously use as when interact with others: 

Intimate zone (15-46 cm)
We allow people into our intimate zone who are close friends, lovers or children but feel embarrassed or threatened if we are forced to share this zone with people we are not familiar with. Avoiding eye contact and touch. 

Personal zone (46cm 1.2m)
This is a comfortable zone for talking to people at parties and social gatherings

Social zone (1.2m 3.6m)
This is the distance we stand with strangers, clients or service people and with work colleagues we do not know well

Public zone (over 3.6m)
When the boss is talking to the staff, or when we have to address a large group of people

If you want people to feel comfortable in your company, don’y stand to close unless you have an intimate relationship with them 

(Source : Interpersonal Skills, Astrid French)

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