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Making Sense of MicronesiaThe Logic of Pacific Island Culture$
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Francis X. S.J. Hezel

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824836610

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824836610.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM HAWAII SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.hawaii.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Hawaii University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

Deciphering the Unspoken

Deciphering the Unspoken

(p.74) 6 Deciphering the Unspoken
Making Sense of Micronesia

Francis X. Hezel

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the ability of Micronesians to decipher the unspoken, to read social situations based on body language and facial gestures. Bragging or overt self-aggrandizement is always in bad taste in the islands. An individual is expected to let his deeds speak for themselves. Even when one is praised for what he has done, he is expected to dismiss the achievements as too ordinary to warrant such praise. This chapter considers how Micronesian islanders interpret silences and the pauses in speech, how they speak to the person rather than about the particular matter at hand, their strong aversion to offending anyone, and their tendency to adopt a slow and noncommittal approach that allows them time to survey the social terrain so that they can avoid pitfalls. It shows that Micronesians can pick up social signals without the need for verbal expression, can communicate emotional signals of their own without resorting to words, and have an instinct for sensing approval or disapproval even when this may not be overtly expressed.

Keywords:   body language, facial gestures, silence, speech, Micronesians, social signals, emotional signals, Micronesia

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