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IC Communication Competency 5: Attuning to Indirect Signals

Very often meaning is conveyed indirectly, so it is extremely important that people pay close attention to subtle verbal and non-verbal signals, such as intonation, eye-contact and body language. If people are attuned, they are able to pick up meaning from such signals. Even a slight hesitation, a slightly prolonged pause, or an absence of signals that are normally present can convey some crucial information. So it is extremely important for participants of international collaborations to learn to ‘read’ their interactional partners and to infer meaning from both the presence and/or absence of such subtle signals. In this way, they will help reduce miscommunication. Such a competency requires careful observation and sensitivity to others.
Case Study Example: Sensitive Attuning 
Chinese 16:
Can I just ask one question? If I understood you, you were talking about […]. Should I read that into what you say?

British 18:

[turns to others]
oh maybe I’m not clear
[immediately rewords question]
In this example, British 18 immediately picks up that the other person does not understand his question. It seems he was partly paying attention to the other person’s facial expressions, and partly to the sudden lack of ‘listening particles’ such as Yes and uhuh or non-verbal cues such as nods.
cift_arrow.gif Tip: Build up your competency in attuning by monitoring people’s non-verbal behaviour on a regular basis.