How To Account For Cultural Nuance Over Video

In communication training, cultural context is always a factor to consider. Over video, since we aren’t entering a room, shaking hands, bowing or kissing, how do we account for cultural nuance? Does it even matter?

While we may think that cultural nuance in communication is erased over video…this simply is not the case. 

In this gem of a video, Dr. Abbie Marono is asked to explain how we can think about cultural nuance and context in nonverbal communication over video specifically. 

Dr. Marono explains the difference between universal nonverbals, which we have collectively evolved to understand and express as a human race. Things like open palm gestures as a sign of peace and non-threat, smiling as a sign of happiness, there are many nonverbals that we can depend on when we are communicating with other cultures. 

What is truly fascinating, and a topic that is as deep as it is rich, is the nuance culture brings to the table. Differences in head movements to signal agreement, happiness or excitement for example. Or specific hand gestures that mean different things tied to specific cultures. 

These are all learned, and not necessarily universal.

These are the nonverbal cues we want to develop a vocabulary and awareness around when we are communicating across culture – especially over video. 

One of my favorite examples is the ‘head wiggle’ or ‘head wobble’ in Indian cultures. This demonstrates agreement and the vigor with which the head is wiggling, signifies the level of agreement and enthusiasm. A simple head nod in this case, might not resonate,  but a head wobble…well, now we are talking!

As Dr. Marono suggests in the video below, it is always wise to pay attention to different cultural cues, whether on video or in person. A small behavior can go a long way when developing rapport and trust. 

Our technology at Virtual Sapiens is designed around universal nonverbal cues. We specifically don’t get too nuanced around gesticulation and biases that might contradict across cultures. 

When you are next on a global call, see if you can do a bit or research ahead of time and spot in realtime some of the culturally specific behaviors.