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Cultural and language

“The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth.” This startlingly succinct quote by philosopher Erasmus exemplifies where to go next, or perhaps, first with emotional intelligence teachings. The fact that many parents can fill the role of emotional mentor to their children (as early as infancy) can be enormously beneficial was originally introduced by Harvard pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton. He adds, “Parents need to understand how their actions can help generate the confidence, the curiosity, the pleasure in learning and the understanding of limits that help children succeed in life.”

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Programs such as Head Start accentuate the acquisition of the social and emotional skills seemingly required for children to develop the readiness to learn. E. L. Schieffelin, author of Anger, Grief and Shame: Toward a Kaluli ethnopsychology, adds in regards to learning and emotional responses: …Children learn that “how people feel in a particular situation is not only supposed to be ‘natural,’ given the situation, but it is also socially expected, or even socially required.” Thus in every society, the how and when to express feelings is taught by example, instruction, and the administration of reward and punishment from the time of infancy.

Body language is clearly central to good communication and is particularly important when attempting to communicate across cultural and language barriers. In fact, body language is more important to people from other cultures than it is to most Americans. To native-born Americans, the spoken word is by far the most important communication tool. In other cultures, however, the way words are spoken (along with the gestures, posture and facial expressions that accompany those words) is of greater significance.

Between 60-80% of our message is communicated through our Body Language, only 7-10% is attributable to the actual words of a conversation. Some psychologists claim that the impact you make on others depends on what you say (7%), how you say it (38%), and by your body language (55%). Since how you sound also conveys a message, 93% of emotion is communicated without actual words. It’s often not what you say that influences others; it’s what you don’t say.

It’s a given that, although there are some similarities, for the most part body language is culture specific. Fuad I. Khuri, a leading Middle East anthropologist, has observed that: Body language is culture-bound, and therefore, the same gesture may convey different meanings in different cultures. Whereas kissing men signifies amity and friendship ties in Arab culture, in many western societies outside the Mediterranean it often indicates a homosexual commitment.

The same goes for facial expressions. Psychologist Paul Eckman coined the term Display Rules (“norms regarding the expected management of facial appearances”), the expected facial expression varies culture to culture. “Anyone can become angry-that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-this is not easy.” Philosopher Aristotle sums up the concept of emotional intelligence perfectly. By blending the sociohistorical, the physiological, the educational, and the kinesthetic, you have all the components needed for attaining a high Emotional Intelligence Quotient that will benefit anyone in most any situation.

Works Cited:

Beier, Earnest. People Reading. New York: Scarborough House, 1989 Brazelton, T. Berry. The Brazelton Institute. 2001. http://www.brazelton-institute.com/index.html Cacioppo, John T. Social Psychology. 2002-2003.


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