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  • Writer's pictureLianne van der Walt


Having lived in Africa, Asia, the Middle east and Australia, I realise how complex communication is. Words and language can often cause confusion and misunderstanding. Even when you have the language, it is possible you may not be understood. Language seems to be very dependent on its cultural context and without a basic understanding and insight into another culture, it may be difficult to relate to its people, regardless of whether you speak the words or not. So much of how we communicate is based on understanding, “Where that person is coming from” – figuratively and quite literally. Having a frame of reference in which to place them helps you understand the way they think. Placed against a cultural backdrop, particular ways of thinking and behaving will make more sense.

How much of our communication is dependent on nonverbal and unconscious body language? As a foreigner, I soon realised that without words and a common language, one could, “Feel people.” We all carry with us an energetic presence which influences our thoughts and behaviours. Without the distraction of words, I learned to look a person in the eye and read their body language. So much can be said in a smile, in hand gestures and in what is reflected in the eyes. Without the, “noise” of words, we have to rely on more subtle forms of communication and awareness.

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