Interacting With African Americans – Non Verbal Communication Training Guide


To be able to effectively interact with African-American, you will need to understand their form of communication to ensure no misunderstanding crops up. This is a guide to direct you on how to communicate nonverbally with African Americans to ensure that you fit well in the community.


African Americans are likely to have quite prolonged and direct eye contact when speaking, but less when listening. The speaker is more likely to speak directly facing the audience direct in the eyes. This is normally accompanied by frequent and in some cases large gestures. The communication expressiveness is what is valued. When the gestures augment expressiveness, they are perceived as enhancing communication (Sage Pub, n.d.).


Research on the space use among African Americans produces mixed results. Some studies demonstrate that, in pair’s race-match, African American children will stand closer to one another in conversation compared to white children. Different studies have demonstrated that Black American adults use a greater public distance from one another. Thus one will need to maintain considerable distance when dealing with children and a considerable distance, while handling adults (Elliott, 1999).


African Americans tend to use physical touch more than European American especially among friends. They are likely to hug when comforting their friends. Handshake is usually used among friends and is more likely to be followed by a friendly hug. They also have a tendency of touching children more frequently and for a longer duration than European Americans. However, African Americans hate being touched on the head, and they are also offended by refusal to be touched for they think that one is racist, especially if the other party is not African American (Elliott, 1999).


African American English has a wide range of pitch and volume in its acceptable form. The voice can vary from high pitched and very loud to deep sound to very quiet, and they may all be regarded as suitable based on the context. Speaking situation compatibility and expressiveness are what determine if the tone and pitch are suitable. Africa Americans do not have a fixed, considerably narrow range like other cultures do (Elliott, 1999).


African Americans are more relaxed about time. They consider right time to be when they get there. Others anger for being late is frequently welcomed with a puzzlement with a common response of “I am here now, we can get started”.  Thus, one should not be very strict about time when dealing with them. African Americans can speak in turns much comfortably where turns are taken from one speaker to another (Elliott, 1999). In this case status, urgency, and the aptitude to command others attention regulates the speaking order. The right to get on speaking is offered by others based on how well the idea of speaker is being accepted. Others responses are normally made after the speaker has completed giving his or her points (Sage Pub, n.d.). This is never considered as interruption. Taking turn in dyads is as well controlled by non-verbal signals that include shifts of postural and hand gestures that reflect the conversational partners, Intensity lessening, tempo slowing and intonation drop. The gaze direction change employed by dominant culture is normally not employed by African American. In addition, pause time should be brief; otherwise people in the group might speak or interrupt on the end of your sentences (Elliott, 1999).

Physical Appearance/ Attire

Smartness is highly regarded by African American. They are highly probable to be smart, especially in an official meeting and expect others to be smart too. Personal attractiveness is also given a high priority and hence, they may go an extra mine to look more attractive. Dressing is also highly used to signify status and hence, it communicates a lot on how one should be addressed or treated Among African Americans (Tidwell, n.d).


Eye contact is regarded positively by African American, especially while dealing with strangers. Eye contact is highly preferred by speaker, especially while addressing the listener at a close range. However, African Americans are likely not to use eye contact while listening and apply it when listening. Prolonged gaze can be interpreted as a sign of sexual interest (Elliott, 1999).


Body natural smell is regarded by African American to be offensive and just like other Americans.They tend to use perfumes to improve their smell (Tidwell, n.d).

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