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Silent language is responsible for raising barriers between individuals of different nationalities and causes what is known as “cultural shock”

Silent language is responsible for raising barriers between individuals of different nationalities and causes what is known as “cultural shock” Silent language is responsible for raising barriers between individuals of different nationalities and causes what is known as “cultural shock”
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Doctor in Philosophy and anthropologist Edward T. Hall has dedicated his life to research in cultural perception of space, intercultural communication techniques (which he will then expand to business world) and proxemics, this branch of knowledge which studies the physical distance between people during an interaction.

In 1959 he introduced the concept of silent language in his book The silent language. He observed that culture is a non-verbal communication and it is culture which builds a silent link between individuals, but also that this same silent language is responsible for raising barriers between individuals of different nationalities.

Hall then dissect intercultural communication via its concept of "major triad". According to him, this is the backbone of all cultures:

  • The formal is what is lived daily by the individual, known and perfectly mastered,
  • The informal is linked to a specific practice, specific to rare, sometimes unknown and uncontrolled situations
  • The technique is the scientific approach of a theme, acquired through the explicit communication

What Hall did for us in 1959 is to study the roots of what we today call a "cultural shock": the feeling that permeates us when faced with a different culture. This feeling where it seems that people around behave in a completely irrational and often frustrating way; ultimately unpleasant, and sometimes without even a single word exchanged.

Source and inspiration :

Edward T. Hall, The Silent Language, Doubleday & company, New York, 1959

Christine Geoffroey, Management interculturel, Recherche & Formation,  2000

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