Nonverbal communication is the study of all of the nonverbal stimuli that are generated by the source and how they utilize the environment and how that may have a potential message value for the source or receiver. Nonverbal communication is influenced by a person's culture and the society in which they live. It is also influenced by their sex and gender. Nonverbal communication is learned by watching other people. It is taught by other members of the society, so it will vary from culture to culture.
The nonverbal communication will have an effect on the success of one's intercultural communication. Nonverbal communication is not set; it is ambiguous and may vary from culture to culture. In order to be a successful nonverbal intercultural communicator, one must learn the nonverbals for that particular culture. Because many times nonverbal communication is done unconsciously, the wrong message can be sent without a person even being aware of it.
Proxemics relates to personal space, seating, and furniture arrangement. In the United States, the promexics are greater than they are in many other cultures, especially European cultures. There exists a difference in proxemics between intimate and causal distances and the social and public distances. Americans tend to take up less space and leave plenty of room in between; Italians will pack on as many people as they can into an already crowded, small space. Proxemics can also communicate status and role distinction. In the United States, the person sitting at the head of the table has the most power. Also, in an office setting, the person behind the desk holds the power. Harmony, privacy, and even centralization are all evidenced by proxemics. In the United States, we center our living room around the television. Many other countries have seating so that it is facing each other. This shows what cultures emphasize. The United States is placing the emphasis on the TV and media. Other countries are placing the emphasis on interpersonal communication, talking with other people, relationship building, or simply conversation in general.
Body language, or kinesics, shows a great deal. It can demonstrate the attitude you hold towards someone else. It can show if you're in an emotional state. It can also show a desire to control your environment, all depending on what you do. Italians are much freer with their body language than Americans are. They use gestures much more frequently, especially when they are highly emotional. When they greet each other, they hug and kiss on each cheek. Americans hand shake, which shows how we are much more formal.
Haptics is how touch relays information. This varies from culture to culture. In the United States, touch is not highly valued. We are more of a Puritanical culture that doesn't really show much affection. It's different in Europe, especially in Italy, where people touch each other all of the time. When we were in Florence, Allie, Rachel and I saw two friends literally leap up to great each other, the one running and jumping on the other one. You would not witness that in the States. Their greeting showed that they were close friends who hadn't seen each other in some time. It was nice to see people being freer with their emotions, although it was a little strange.