5-1 Discussion: Proxemics

Proxemics is a theory of non-verbal communication that explains how people communicate without words through personal speaking distance, speech volume, eye contact, touching, body position, and the context in which the communication occurs. Different individuals, especially those from different cultural backgrounds, have different comfort levels with these non-verbal elements of communication and may have different non-verbal communication standards.

For this discussion, identify three volunteers, if possible, from different demographic backgrounds, including age, national origin, and gender. Explain the theory of proxemics to them and ask if they would allow you to assess the degree of comfort or discomfort when these different non-verbal communication components are varied. As you talk to them, vary the personal distance, speech volume, eye contact, touching (if appropriate based on local cultural norms), body position, and setting in which the communication occurs. Discuss how each variable positively or negatively impacts the communication process. Then, summarize how these factors increase or decrease your ability to actively listen to the other party and why they are valuable.

If you cannot find three volunteers for this assignment, watch the following video clip: Cultural Proxemics—Personal Space. Then, provide three key ideas you have gained from watching the video clip. Include a summary of what you have observed and learned from this exercise.

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