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Amae: Sweet Interdependence. Japanese Communication Strategies Beyond Language. “The Japanese Can’t Say No”. Taken From Dave Barry Does Japan Beth: …and then we want to take a plane from Point A to Point B Travel Agent: I see. You want to take a plane? Beth: Yes.

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amae sweet interdependence

Amae: Sweet Interdependence

Japanese Communication Strategies Beyond Language

the japanese can t say no
“The Japanese Can’t Say No”

Taken From Dave Barry Does Japan

Beth: …and then we want to take a plane from Point A to Point B

Travel Agent: I see. You want to take a plane?

Beth: Yes.

Travel Agent: From Point A?

Beth: Yes.

Travel Agent: To Point B?

Beth: Yes.

Travel Agent: Ah.

slide3

Dave Barry Continued…

Beth: Can’t we do that?

Travel Agent: Perhaps you would prefer to take a train.

Beth: No, we would prefer to take a plane.

Travel Agent: Ah-hah. You would prefer to take a plane?

Beth: Yes. A plane.

Travel Agent: I see. From Point A? …

what s the problem
What’s the problem?
  • There is no plane!
  • Different communicative strategies:
    • Independent (American)
    • Interdependent (Japanese)
slide5
Amae
  • “Sweetness” or “Dependence”
  • Mother-child relationship?
    • Dependence on someone
    • Need to be depended on
  • Social Interdependence
slide6
Enryô
  • Modesty and restraint in behavior; indirectness
    • “Can’t say NO”
    • Downplaying abilities/qualities of self or relatives
    • Refusal to take things that are desired
  • Speaker depends on listener to interpret the message
sasshi
Sasshi
  • “Guesswork”; understanding of the unsaid
    • “sore wa chotto” = no
    • “amari jôzu ja arimasen” = might be quite capable
    • “kangaemasu” (“I’ll think about it”) = probably not
  • Listener depends on speaker to give adequate clues
independence vs interdependence
Independence vs. Interdependence
  • Independent behavior:
    • “Mind your own business”
    • “Say what you mean”
    • Individual needs come first
    • You are defined by how you define yourself
  • Interdependent behavior:
    • “What might he/she like me to do? (sasshi)
    • “I should not emphasize anything about myself that would make me different from others” (enryô)
    • Group needs come first
    • You are defined according to your relationships
sumimasen
“Sumimasen”
  • Excuse me, sorry, thank you, etc…
  • Independent thinking:
    • You apologize for doing something wrong, taking responsibility for your actions
  • Interdependent thinking:
    • You apologize if you believe you have upset the group (interdependent) dynamic
    • Does not necessarily imply that you did something wrong, or are taking responsibility for actions
monku complaining
“Monku” (Complaining)
  • Independent thinking:
    • If it’s unfair, you should speak up
  • Interdependent thinking:
    • It’s better to endure (“gaman suru”) personal unfairness rather than disrupt the group
further reading
Further Reading
  • Bachnik, Jane, and Quinn, Charles. Situated Meaning: Inside and Outside the Japanese Self, Society, and Language. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1994.
  • Barry, Dave. Dave Barry Does Japan. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1992.
  • Doi, Takeo. The Anatomy of Dependence. Trans. John Bester. Tokyo: Kôdansha International, 1981.
  • Lebra, Takie Sugiyama. Japanese Patterns of Behavior. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1976.
  • Yamada, Haru. Different Games, Different Rules: Why Americans and Japanese Misunderstand Each Other. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • “Young Japan.” Time Magazine Special Double Issue. May 3-10, 1999: 20-57.
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