This is what was going through my head this afternoon. Why? The topic was “Communicating with Foreigners”, primarily with nonverbal language, and to put things in perspective we were participating in an exercise. Each person had been assigned nonverbal cultural traits and we were supposed to go around the room and greet each other.
Ian’s assigned “culture” would avoid any and all eye contact and offer a limp handshake AND NOT LET GO! My culture, as a sign of respect, would wait 5 seconds after you addressed them before before responding. I quickly found that Ian and the others I greeted would try to fill that silence!!! Every time they stopped talking I would start counting in my head. One, two… By the time I got to three they would start talking! We parted with me thinking Ian’s culture awkward and weird and Ian thinking mine was mute.
It was an impactful way to start the discussion. I was amazed, even in a ten minute exercise, how quick I was be relieved when I met someone from my pretend culture or how weird or hysterical I found some of the other cultures. Sometimes you don’t realize the impact your nonverbal culture has on you until it’s gone.