(*turn the captions on to see the English)
This is a clever and funny video the guys at Gakuranman.com put together about how to argue in Japanese. If you go to their post on this it is really informative and will help you understand a lot of the differences in communication between Easterners and Westerners. The way Japanese people communicate with each other is so subtle, nuanced, and like a dance. You can see a great deal of that expressed in Noh theater when you think about it.
And Westerners (especially Americans) have such a hard time understanding that real differences exist between the way they communicate and the way Japanese people do. For example, Americans tell you their point and then explain what their point means. Easterners use a good amount of subtlety, hinting, and inference to explain to you what they mean and then you’re supposed to pick up on the point. It’s really complex and takes time and patience. In a way, it’s too shameful in Japanese or other Asian languages to just blurt out everything you think, believe and feel. It’s even too shameful to just tell someone flat out, ‘NO!’ (you hear stuff like ‘i’ll think about it’ or ‘maybe’).
*West vs. East w/ communication (link)
Growing up as an American half-Japanese kid, I never really understood this distinction. Recently, I’ve reflected on this a lot and it’s shed some light on the way I communicate and how I learned this stuff from my mom simply through interacting with her and watching her do it. It’s important to know this (esp. in a global economy) b/c Americans really value confrontation; being loud, abrasive, and outspoken; dominating conversations or obliterating others in a debate without affirming their thoughts at all, etc. As you might expect though, Westerners tend to frown on the Eastern way of communicating because it’s arduous and seems weak and passive-aggressive and Easterners tend to frown on how abrupt, rude and domineering Westerners can be. I think both need to learn to give a bit.
What’s worse for me, though, is not only have I inherited this Japanese way of self-expression, but I grew up in the South where no one really says what they mean and people are extremely polite to one another even if they hate each other’s guts (*see picture below). So, maybe I’ll be like a ‘super-communicator’ in Japan. But that’s probably asking too much…
Anger: West vs. East