Breaking Stereotypes: The Japanese Way of Sharing Opinions

  • Japanese nationals are considered to be shy and not able to discuss properly. Many Westerners claim, that most Japanese are not able of forming an opinion and even if they have one, that they are not able express their opinion. But is this really so simple? Is this true?

    This is, among many other misconceptions, of course not true. It is the same as judging Japanese being cold and emotionless. Those, who say so, do not seem to understand Japanese culture and behaviour at all. It is them who do not know how to ‘read’ signs and gestures properly and are left misunderstood.

    As in the case of showing emotions: Japanese do show them very well, it all depends on how well the other person is able to read, interpret and see those emotions. The same goes for expressing opinions:. of course do Japanese have opinions! They either love, like, dislike or hate something, or have a neutral feeling towards something. It is just shown differently. Besides, not all opinions matter: in most western countries, people are taught to show and express their emotions very openly as best as possible. The counterpart has to be able to see one’s feeling immediately, to avoid misunderstandings. They tend to do their utmost to make sure the other side got the hint. And just to be on the safe side, everything needs to be straightened out, emotions need to be shown strongly with facial expressions and said directly, to exaggerate a bit.

    The Japanese language and way does not work that way. It is not about making sure the other one knows how you feel. You can hint it carefully, but make sure not to oppress others. It is not about ‘running away’ from confrontations, but to smoothen them out. It is not the fear of having different views, it is about not hurting others. But why would someone feel hurt, if they clash with a different opinion, you might ask. That is, because some people tend to concentrate so much on their own feelings and views, that they communicate them in such a possessive way, that even if you do not have a different idea, you might end up in the opposite direction, just to find ‘shelter’.

    It is a long way, but to understand Japanese better, be patient, listen and cool down your own opinions, then you will start hearing others!

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