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Dan Erwin

Steve: Damnet and Borland is in a 2007 issue of the Journal of Asian Pacific Communication (I download such at my nearby university via EBSCO...and I just checked...it's available. I can't download from home, or I'd send it to you. I assume you have free entre at a local school. UMN encourages the public.) I regularly teach nonverbal skills--especially in client relationship training where the nv investment is terrifically important. One of the reasons I teach is that a lot of people aren't very effective "noticers." A second is that people need skills for asking what a nv means. A third is that they need insight into their own nv and how it differs from others.

Even in homogenous cultures in the US, nonverbals have a lot of different meanings. Interpersonal space, for example, varies ethnically for up to three or four generations. When you check out space differences between genders, it often varies significantly. When conversing with me, typically a Finn wants 4-5 feet distance, and an Irish woman may have her hand on my wrist, or even touching my waist. The issue in client relations is whatever makes the client comfortable...and space is an easy nv to pick up on.

I've watched New Yorkers get "killed" in the upper midwest because they assume that the simple nv of silence means agreement. Here in MN, silence may mean disagreement or no. It may also mean I'll think about it. Growing up in Detroit, with parents from the South, silence meant agreement.

When we moved here 35 years ago, and I was teaching at a small university, I nearly got in trouble for missing simple nonverbals.

I have a couple posts on how to ask about nonverbals (but you need to be careful when asking)...the second post is here, see the P.S. also: http://danerwin.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/05/how-to-listen-with-your-eyes-part-2.html

Steve Roesler

Dan, thanks for the expansive response and real-life examples.

Readers: check out Dan's posts on the issue of nonverbals.

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