Body Language

By: Ananya Gupta

When talking about the expression of emotion, it is fascinating that a significant portion of body language and gestures is universal around the world. A smile is a smile depicting happiness, no matter where you are in the world. However, there are some differences amongst some expressions and gestures that might seem strange to us, considering how we use them on a day to day basis.

An interesting statistic I found depicts the ratio of which the meaning of what we are saying is conveyed to another person. A measly seven percent of meaning is derived from the actual words spoken. A more significant part, the tone of voice, accounts for thirty-eight percent of the meaning, and the rest, is attributed to body language, which accounts for fifty-five percent of meaning. So it plays a tremendous role in our day to day interactions with people.

Nodding your head is generally seen as a way to agree with something, or associated with the word “yes,” however, in Bulgaria and Greece, the opposite is true. Nodding of the head is seen as “no” while shaking your head is seen as “yes.” Eye contact is another notable difference. Maintaining strong eye contact is seen as favorable in the West; however, Asian cultures tend to keep it a minimum as it tends to be viewed as disrespectful, or as if you are challenging someone, and in places such as Japan, bowing is an extremely significant custom that indicates respect.

I personally found these differences interesting and notable as some things are the same around the world, while others can have vastly different meanings depending on where you are. This creates the ultimate question: how were the more universal features developed and spread through? Are they a byproduct of evolutionary development and helped us survive in the past? How is culture intertwined within these differences?

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