Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

Our class discussions and the article both focus on social norms and values, or mores. There are so many little things in everyday lives that are norms. Many of these norms are subtle things, like washing your hands after going to the bathroom, yet they govern our lives. What is the most amazing thing about these mores is that almost all of them are communicated completely without words (and yet we are still expected to abide by them- crazy right?).
In the article, Edward and Mildred Hall delve into the topic body language. Body language follows its own set of norms and is also widely used to express one's opinion of said norms. So much of our culture, actually all cultures, is communicated without any words. An eyebrow raise. An eye roll. A nod. This can make mixing different cultures very difficult. In an example in the passage, there is a Mexican businessman and an American business man. The Mexican keeps moving closer to the American, which shows trust and togetherness. The American is moving back because he feels that the Mexican man is being aggressive and invading his personal space. In this case, the miscommunication is not ignorance, but instead a cultural gap.
For me, and all other students, body language is very important at school. We nod along with the teacher and keep eye contact to create the illusion of listening, because we know that if our body language shows our disinterest (yawning, slouching, resting on our desks), we will get called on or punished. Just today I got called on in English during a discussion when I had not idea what was going on. I imagine that i was slouching and not making any eye contact. There was no hiding my daydreaming. I was being quiet, but my body was screaming that I was not paying attention.
Both the boy and girl are sitting quietly, but body language makes it pretty apparent which one is listening.


  1. I can definately relate with your experience about being called on when you seem most uninterested, and I have seen it happen many times. Last year in English my friend got called on and she had no idea what to say and the teacher let her suffer for 5 minutes. The teacher wouldn't let her get help from the class, she had to say something until he approved.
    I agree that norms, even things that barely mean anything, control our life. Our society is based off of normative order. Although I believe we need order in our lives, I don't think it needs to be so controlled by things that mean almost nothing.
    This also goes back to ethnocentricity because people may set different norms for themselves whether it is about washing their hands in the bathroom or making eye contact or saying hi to people in the hall. Some people probably think nothing of it when they don't say hi to people in the hall, but the people who it means something to probably get offended by the person not saying hi.
    Silence means a lot in our world today. Many times we hear people saw awkward silence when there was a roar of talking but then it seems as if someone said stop and everyone got quiet. Silence can also be good when you are studying or doing homework because we need to concentrate. Silence can help you pace yourself when you're giving a speech. Silence can mean there is tension between two people. Silence can be interpreted in so many different ways and there are so many ways to fill it, especially with body language, like the cold shoulder or a breath. It can make or break someones day. It is something that does control some of our behaviors in today's world. This, in my opinion, is a norm that actually means something worthwhile.
    We talked about sanctions in class. Silence can be rewarded or punished if you think about it. If you are quiet in class and work hard the teacher may decide not to give you homework; however, if you ignore your parents, you might get grounded.

  2. Both of you have done a good job of applying these ideas to your school-day life. I like the phrase "screaming that I wasn't paying attention".

    Brittany, Did your teacher really let the student suffer for 5 minutes? I bet it felt like a LONG time, but was probably less time than you thought. After all, those norms apply to teachers, too, and it is REALLY hard to stay quiet for that long. Especially for teachers, as we really like to talk :-)

    Mrs. Castelli