By Meaghan O'Reilly
Professor Karen Dunn is taking time to teach organizations outside of the Queens community about the power of body language and non-verbal communication.
Professor Dunn is a communication professor in the Knight School. She teaches mainly relational communication classes such as interpersonal communication, gender and communication, communicating across generations, and nonverbal communication.
The vice president of communication from Transamerica Reinsurance asked Dunn to give a presentation at a "watch and learn" seminar with their employees about interaction with office and markets global on March 16, 2011, in Uptown Charlotte.
Transamerica Reinsurance helps life insurance companies use the latest risk and capital management capabilities to grow their business. They have customers and clients all over the world in areas such as Asia, Europe and Latin America. It is important that their employees know how their non-verbal communication can be interpreted in other country than the United States.
Dunn gave a presentation called "Do You See What I Say" to fifty of Transamerica Reinsurance's employees. This presentation was about body language and nonverbal in cross culture interactions. She said her presentation had "lots of laughs and lots of learning."
To squeeze a little fun into her presentation, Dunn went over the countless number of different obscene gestures and where they are offensive and appropriate. For instance the okay symbol used in America has many other meanings in countries around the world. In Japan it is the sign for money, France it means zero, and in Spain it is obscene. Another example of is the giving someone a "thumbs up." In the U.S. it may mean good luck or good job but in Iran it is considered a vulgar sign.
Throughout her presentation, Dunn discussed many different lessons in non-verbal communication. These include:
- The history of non-verbal communication
- The cultures interpretation
- Same culture agreement
- Non-verbal expectancies
Dunn also shared how different cultures calculate and view:
- Person space
- Territory and privacy
- Eye contact
- Use or "cost" of time
- Attitude, posture and attire
Dunn told everyone to stand up so they could all correctly learn how to do the Japanese bow. This is important because knowing simple everyday gestures or greetings from various cultures can help an organization benefit in a big way. It shows a sign of respect to the person or company you are trying to build a relationship with.
"It's always fun to talk about nonverbal communication," Dunn said. "People are acutely aware that when there's a language difference and they think less about misunderstandings that arise from non-verbal differences."