Luận văn An American, Vietnamese cross: Cultural study on non-Verbal expressions of disappointment - Bùi Hải Sơn

To our understanding, language is a great heaven prize and treasure for human in order to fulfill our vital needs as the social beings: communication. Language appeared, remains and flourishes along with human history. With the seen development of language and language studies at the moment, there is no need in proving the crucial and irreplaceable position of language in human life.

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PART A: INTRODUCTION i. Rationale “One’s eyes are more accurate witnesses than ears” Heraclitus To our understanding, language is a great heaven prize and treasure for human in order to fulfill our vital needs as the social beings: communication. Language appeared, remains and flourishes along with human history. With the seen development of language and language studies at the moment, there is no need in proving the crucial and irreplaceable position of language in human life. However, there are now more and more researchers believing that communication without spoken and written words, termed “nonverbal communication” (NVC), is of vital role. As Heraclitus states above, people tend to rely on NVC and to base the partners’ message on the nonverbal cues they receive. One more important thing is that even nonverbal communication takes a big part in transferring meaning in communication; most people do not know how to read other’s behaviors. Thus, the question is: what shape our behaviors and decision? For a successful communication event, one possible answer is emotion. Therefore, the studies into nonverbal expressions for internal emotions have been paid much attention to. The primary emotional states studied include: surprise, fear, disgust, anger, sadness and happiness. Nevertheless, disappointment, one of two primary emotions (together with regret) that involve in decision-making – the success of a communication event, has not been much concerned. All of this leads the author to the research naming: “An American – Vietnamese cross-cultural study on non-verbal expressions of disappointment”. This preliminary study tries to feature out the most common nonverbal expressions for disappointment in order that a successful communication event can be achieved between American and Vietnamese communicators. ii. Aims of the study This research aims to: - investigate the most common nonverbal expressions for disappointment used by Americans and Vietnamese in cross-cultural communication. - raise the awareness of the importance of NVC and suggest ways to improve cross-cultural NVC. In order to achieve the set aims of the study the research questions are as follows: - What are the most common nonverbal expressions for disappointment used by Americans and/or Vietnamese? - What are the similarities and differences between American and Vietnamese nonverbal expressions of disappointment? iii. Scope of the study Nonverbal messages are widely transferred through many channels. For the common consideration, it includes: paralanguage, body language, object language and environment language, of which object language and environment language do not have much contribution to express emotions which include disappointment. It comes to our awareness that paralanguage (the vocal characteristics, types of vocal flow, vocal interferences, silence…) adds a high percentage to the process of communication. However, due to the time constraint and lack of reliable equipment (voice recorder, voice analyzer…), this kind of factor will be unavoidably out of the scope of the study. So, the study only focuses on body language. That is, this study limits itself to facial expressions, gestures and postures only. iv. Methods of the study In order to set up a firm theoretical background for the study, relevant publications are critically reviewed. Information from the Internet sites and previous studies are also referred to. The main method used in this study is quantitative with the illustration of tables and charts presenting statistic data. The analysis is mainly based on the data collected through the survey questionnaires. Consultation with the supervisor, discussion with colleagues, as well as the author’s observation in daily life and his own experience in cross-cultural communication are also of great help in finding out the answers to the research questions. v. Organization of the study The study will be organized into the following structure: Part A: INTRODUCTION outlines the rationale, the methodology, the aims, the scope, the significance and the organization of the study. Part B: DEVELOPMENT Chapter 1 LITERATURE REVIEW reviews the theoretical issues. It briefly presents and discusses the theory of communication, NVC with more detailed discussion on facial expressions, gestures and postures which are major parts of body language. Disappointment as a human feeling and its nonverbal expressions are also discussed. Chapter 2 METHODOLOGY describes the data collecting instrument, the informants and research procedures. Chapter 3 DATA ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSIONS OF THE FINDINGS presents and discusses similarities and differences in how to express disappointment nonverbally by the American and the Vietnamese. Part C: CONCLUSION Summary of major findings Conclusion and Implications for cross-cultural communication Limitations of the study and Suggestions for further study. PART B: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER 1 LITERATURE REVIEW 1.1. CULTURE As Harrison and Huntington noted, “the term ‘culture,’ of course, has had different meanings in different disciplines and different contexts”. By stating “culture is the human-made part of the environment,” W.J.Lonner and R.S.Malpass (1994:7) contrast the culture and the nature. In their ideas, things in environment will never become cultural without the “touch” of human. According to H. Triandis (1994:23), “Culture is a set of human-made objective and subjective elements that in the past have increased the probability of survival and resulted in satisfaction for the participants in a ecological niche, and this became shared among those who could communicate with each other because they had a common language and they lived in the same time and place.” The subjective elements of culture here are elements such as values, attitudes, beliefs, orientations and underlying assumptions prevalent among people in a society. All of these elements act as a framework that influences your interpretation of the world and interactions in it. 1.2. COMMUNICATION 1.2.1. Definition of Communication “We are great communicators” Liz & John Soars: 1997 We, human beings, communicate during our whole life for our own purpose. A child cries (communicates) to his parents as he needs changing his diaper or feeding. Family members communicate for help and emotional support and to maintain a good family atmosphere. At work, people communicate for the purpose of exchanging ideas, negotiating… Leaders communicate their visions to their staff. Executives communicate to the lower-level employees. Organizations communicate to their customers and the public. Press conferences, press releases, employee newsletters, catalogues, direct mail, phone calls, employee suggestion systems, meetings, formal performance appraisals, on-the-job feedback from managers, attitude surveys, speeches, conference room briefings, letters, memos and evaluation forms - all of these are examples of communication. We now come to a conclusion that communication is very important in our lives, as Hybels (1992:5) claims “Communication, then, is vital to our lives. To live is to communicate.” Larry A., Richard E. Porter and Edwin R. McDaniel (2006:12) select the all-encompassing definition of “human communication is the process through which symbols are transmitted for the purpose of eliciting a response”. Lustig (1996:29) defines communication as “a symbolic process in which people create shared meanings”. In the both definitions, the centre is “symbol”. A symbol may be “a word, action or object”, containing thoughts, perception or feelings one wants to communicate with others. 1.2.2. Forms of Communication Communication as claimed by Lustig above is the process of exchange shared meanings. And in order to create share meaning, people have to use code or symbol. In reality, the two kinds of code or symbol are verbal (spoken and written) and nonverbal (unspoken). These are referred to as forms of communication. To get a better view, communication can be illustrated in the following diagram: COMMUNICATION VERBAL COMMUNICATION NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION 1.2.3. Components of Communication The followings are components of communication according to Hymes: 1972. - Situation: setting and sense - Participants: speaker, presenter, hearer, receiver, narrator - End: purpose, result or goal - Act sequences: model or language content - Key: Clues that establish the "tone, manner, or spirit" of the speech act. - Instrumentalities: channel, form or style - Norms: norms of interpretation, norms of interaction - Genres: kind of speech act or event Among these, the participants (speaker and hearer) and situation are prominent to the choice of message coder (language or nonverbal cues used). The participants’ background impacts much on the choice of the coder used. The background includes: age, sex, living place, occupation… When discussing different participants and situations, the underlying effect of power (P), social distance (D) and rank of imposition (R) have to be considered. With combination of the three factors, the choice of message coder can be in diversity. 1.2.4. Cross-cultural communication The relationship between culture and communication is often compared with the bond between the voice and the echo. From culture and communication, there are three branches of communication as follows: Intra-cultural communication: is the communication between people who live in the same country and come from the same cultural background. Inter-cultural communication: is the communication between people who live in the same country but come from different cultural background. Cross-cultural communication: is the communication between people who live in different countries and come from different cultural background. Coming from different geographic locations and holding different values, beliefs,… people in cross-cultural communication face more problems than in intra-cultural and inter-cultural branches. This is because people have different ways of interpreting social meanings conveyed in their interaction with the outside world. 1.3. NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION 1.3.1 Definition of nonverbal communication In the process of communication, people do not only send verbal messages but nonverbal ones as well. NVC is understood as a way of communicating without the use of written or spoken language. According to Lustig (1996:187-188), “nonverbal communication is a multi-channeled process that is usually performed simultaneously; it typically involves a subtle set of nonlinguistic behaviors that are often enacted subconsciously. Nonverbal behaviors can become part of the communication process when someone intentionally tries to convey a message or when someone attributes meaning to the nonverbal behavior of another, whether or not the person intend to communicate a particular meaning.” As Lustig pointed out, when some meaning is attached to a nonlinguistic behavior, whether by message transmitter or perceiver, that behavior becomes part of communication process. The detailed description of NVC is presented by Nguyen Quang “all the components of the message that, when taken together, constitute the communication which is not verbally coded but both vocally and non-vocally channeled. Nonverbal communication is composed of paralinguistic factors (nonverbal - vocal channel), such as rate, volume, etc., and extra-linguistic factors (nonverbal - non-vocal channel), such as body language (gestures, postures, facial expressions,…) object language (including clothing, jewelry…) and environmental language (proxemics, settings…)”. 1.3.2 Importance of nonverbal communication Most people believe the best way of communicating is verbal. However, NVC is there, even when people do not speak a word. Pease (1984:7) states “The miracle is that human hardly recognize his or her appearance, movements and gestures can tell one story while his or her voice is telling another story.” (Cited in Nguyen Quang). A number of researches, with different approach and methods have pointed out the importance of NVC. Albert Mehrabian found that the total impact of a message is about 7 percent verbal (words only), 38 percent vocal (including tone of voice, inflection and other sounds) and 55 percent nonverbal. (Pease, 1984:6) Chart 1: Importance of Nonverbal Communication It is easy to conclude that NVC is an indispensable and all pervasive element in human behavior. Perhaps its most obvious application is found in the fact that young children start comprehending words at around six months of age yet understand NVC well before that time. Hence, from the moment of birth to the end of life, NVC is an important symbol system. 1.3.3. Differences between Nonverbal Communication and Verbal Communication First of all, NVC seems to be more ambiguous than verbal communication. This is because nonverbal cues can be intentional or unintentional. If an intentional behavior is perceived and interpreted correctly, this can help to maintain good communication. Meanwhile, if an unintentional behavior is interpreted as conveying meaning, it can cause the social interaction to go wrongly or even stop. Additionally, the nonverbal cues can carry various meanings. A silence can be interpreted as: agreement, disagreement, wondering, waiting for other’s response, an indicator of surprise or happiness… Secondly, NVC is continuous. Verbal communication only starts when people start to make sounds in an organized order and stops when the sound chunks stop. However, NVC starts when someone appears in communicating partner’s sight, continues even when the two people keep silent, and only ends when one gets out of the other’s sight. Thirdly, NVC is multi-channeled. Units of verbal communication appear in a linear order in accordance with rules of grammar, vocabulary…. Nonverbal cues appear at the same time, requesting us to receive by some, even all five of our senses. There are not only cues but also cluster of cues and areas of cues. Fourthly, NVC reveals more about human’s emotion than verbal communication. Verbal communication is often thought to be accurate in describing the various emotional states. In fact, it only describes either one aspect or one status of that emotional state. The fifth characteristic of NVC is that people tend to rely on NVC if there is contradiction between verbal messages and nonverbal messages. Last but not least, nonverbal cues can be perceived and interpreted differently in different societies. The same meanings can be expressed by different nonverbal cues and the same cues can be interpreted as conveying different meanings in different cultures. 1.3.4 Classification of nonverbal communication Dwyer (2000) classifies NVC into: body movement, physical characteristics, touch, vocal characteristics (paralanguage), space (proximity), artifacts, and environment. Hybels categorizes NVC into paralanguage, body movement/ kinesics, proxemics, chronemics, aesthetics, physical characteristics and artifacts. Lustig et. al. discusses six types of nonverbal codes including: body movement/ kinesics, touch, time/ chronemics, voice, and other nonverbal code systems, consisting of chemical, physical, dermal and artifactual systems. Of the various classifications, Nguyen Quang (2001:9) presents a detailed and easy-to-follow one in the diagram below. Nonverbal Communication Paralanguage Extralanguage - Vocal characteristics + Pitch + Volume + Rate + Vocal quality - Types of vocal flow - Vocal interferences - Silence… Body language/ Kinesics Object language/ Artifacts Environmental language - Eye contact - Facial expressions - Physical characteristics - Gestures - Postures - Body movements - Touch/ Haptics/ Tactile … - Clothing - Jewelry - Accessories - Make-up - Artifactual scents - Gifts - Flowers … - Setting - Conversational distance/ Proxemics - Time/ Chronemics - Lighting system - Color - Heat … Diagram 1: Classification of Nonverbal Communication 1.3.5. Nonverbal communication across culture As shown in the discussion of differences between NVC and verbal communication, nonverbal cues can be ambiguous even with people of the same culture. With people from different cultures, this is obviously more problematic. A big amount of nonverbal cues are culture-specific. This means these cues convey the messages that only members of that culture can interpret correctly. 1.4. DISAPPOINTMENT AND ITS NONVERBAL EXPRESSIONS The size of your success is measured by the strength on your desire, the size of your dream, and how you handle disappointment along the way Robert Kiyosaki Is there any one here who has not experienced disappointment in his or her life? It is one of the oldest human experiences. Each of us could make a lot of our unfulfilled wishes or seeds we planted which never grew into plants. Anyone who has hopes or dreams may be waited by some disappointment. When their hopes or dreams can not become true. Alexander Pope wrote “Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”. Disappointment is a problem which transcends economics. We can be well-off financially and still have all kinds of disappointment. We can be disappointed with our family members, disappointed with our friends, with our marriage, or jobs for not reaching whatever goals we have set for ourselves. We can be disappointed because our life lacks meaning and direction. Let us consider a situation described by David E. B. (Jan-Feb. 1985): your boss tells you he is delighted with your performance over the past year and is giving you a $5000 bonus. Are you pleased? If you were not expecting a bonus, you would be delighted. If you were expecting a $10,000 bonus, you would be disappointed. He (David E. Bell) claims that “Disappointment is, then, a psychological reaction to an outcome that does not match up to expectations”. In a broader view, Loralea Michaelis states “Disappointment is a characteristic feature of our shared condition as mortal creatures subject to the experiences of failure and frustration: our plans may go awry, our actions may have unwanted consequences, our expectations may be frustrated and, in a more general sense, we are rarely the kind of people we would like to be.” It is stated in a sermon in St. Ansgar’s Lutheran Church that “in the simplest terms, disappointment is unmet positive expectation. The word positive here is important. There are some unmet expectation which bring us joy and satisfaction and not disappointment. For example you might go to see a physician with the expectation that your symptoms will lead to a diagnosis of terminal cancer. You will not be disappointed if that expectation proves to be false. Disappointment occurs when we expect a certain good thing to take place and it doesn’t.” The same idea can be seen from Levering Bas “The question is whether expectation is a sufficient condition for disappointment. Do unfulfilled expectations by definition lead to disappointment? When a negative expectation is nourished, that is, when I expect something I would rather not see happen, and in fact it does not happen, then I feel relief instead of disappointment. The question is whether relief can been seen as the opposite of disappointment in the sense that the former is about a cheerful feeling and the latter about an unpleasant one. If I pass an exam about which I have had the most anxious expectations. I am first relieved, then glad. This means that when talking about disappointment, there are always desired expectations involved.” According to Moyo-Angle Bamidele, “everyone that has expectations and desires in life will experience disappointment in one way or the other” and we experience disappointment when: - When we expect something to happen soon but it does not - When input is not equal to output
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