Japanese Communication Style, Do Japanese Communicate Differently?

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Level: Advanced. Please check Japanese Culture for simpler, basic information.

Japanese Communication Style

Self-ConceptionInterdependent (e.g., I belong to… statements)
Ingroup/Outgroup boundaryStrict (Company, school, circle, family members are treated very differently)
Wa (Harmony)Omnipresent
Enryo (Conformity)High (Self-deprecating statements are encouraged, harmony requires conformity)
Context EffectsHigh Context/Implicit (e.g. Do you think it is hot in here?)
Uncertainty AvoidanceHigh (e.g. different things should be avoided)
Power DistanceHigh ( huge gap between superiors and subordinates)
Masculinity/FemininityMasculine (Male dominant society, same sex friendships)
directnessIndirect(Cautiousness and indirectness needed for harmony, synthetic thinking (focusing on the whole) vs analytic thinking)
Ingroup/Outgroup ConversationHonorifics and different words used for outsiders. Honne vs tatemae, uchi vs. soto
PurposeInformation Transmission (persuasiveness should always be avoided)
Topic Management and Turn takingTake turns evenly, use aizuchi
SilencePresence of seniors, outsiders, different gender make it hard to talk. Silence has different meanings.
competenceLow confidence in English skills, purpose is instrumental (to get a job)
Uncertainty ReductionFocus on nonverbal behaviour and group membership, background info.
Self-disclosureLow self-disclosure, might not reveal the truth (Honne/tatemae)
Nonverbal AspectsPositive emotions are displayed more often
Relationship DevelopmentAmae and sasshi are important in all stages, co-worker and class-mate relationships are more intimate than family relationships
PrivacyUse passive-withdrawal when privacy is threatened
Communicaton StyleRelaxed, passive criticism, expression of own limitations when admired someone, no explanations after an apology
Predispositions twd. Verbal BehaviorMore assertive, response, talk longer,erabi world view.
Emotional ExpressionNo actions needed to deal with emotional feeling
Face Negotiation and Conflict ResolutionLosing face when disappointing group members. Dominating and integrating negotiations.
ExpectationsA person who is not direct, not dominant in conversation and tolerating silence

American Communication Style

Self-ConceptionIndependent (e.g., I am … statements)
Ingroup/Outgroup boundaryLoose (comm. with strangers does not have distinctive patterns
Wa (Harmony)Not so important
Enryo (Conformity)Low  (independence is a virtue)
Context EffectsLow Context/Explicit (e.g., Can you open the window? Sentences starting with I and words like absoluteley, certainly…)
Uncertainty AvoidanceLower (e.g. different things are waiting to be discovered)
Power DistanceLow (superiors and subordinates communicate the same way)
Masculinity/Femininity(Relatively)Feminine  (Males and females are more equal, friendships with opposite sex)
directnessDirect (subject Centered, analytic thinking (focusing on parts))
Ingroup/Outgroup ConversationNo Distinctive comm. Between outgroup members
PurposePersuasion (language can be used to convince others, threats are not unusual)
Topic Management and Turn takingconversation starter makes most of the talk, questions and comments instead of backchanneling
Silencewords are used to control situation, silence is not liked
competenceFluent Japanese speakers are uncommon and usually not much appreciated.(the law of inverse returns)
Uncertainty ReductionFocus on verbal communication and individual ideas opinions
Self-disclosureHigh disclosure, ask more questions (not age and marital status).
Nonverbal AspectsNegative emotions (distress, anger) displayed more often.More eye contact and more touching
Relationship DevelopmentNo amae-sashi in advanced relationships, co-worker relationships are not necessarily seen intimate
PrivacyUse active-aggressive strategies
Communicaton Style Attentive, active criticism, direct admiration, explain own behavior after an apology
Predispositions twd. Verbal BehaviorLess assertive, talking a lot is looked down, awase world view.
Emotional ExpressionEmotions are experienced for longer time and with higher intensity, explicitly stated
Face Negotiation and Conflict ResolutionLosing face when personally fail in an individual activity.Avoidance used to resolve conflict
ExpectationsA person who is expressive and has a sense of humour but not self conscious.

Source: Gudykunst & Nishida, 1994.

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