Japanese Place Importance on “Harmony”

The characteristic of “vague expression” in which the speaker shows concern for others’ peace-of-mind is related to the desire in Japan to maintain a harmonious spirit and avoid disputes.It is seen everywhere in Japan. Take as an example the situation where you cause a major problem for someone, but they are only partly to blame. In the USA, you would blame their error and make excuses as if you are blameless. This is because if you admit it was your fault, you will very likely be liable for a large amount of financial compensation.

In Japan, most Japanese will not say that the fault lies with the other person; they will instead apologize sincerely. Seeing someone not apologize will make Japanese very angry. Generally, the more you apologize, the less compensation you will be asked for. Japanese place more importance on caring for others than on logic. Japanese seldom sue others. Even if a dispute arises, they will try to settle it through talks. This is in contrast to the USA where many disputes are solved in court.

A spirit of harmony is also seen in Japanese business. In Japan, when someone proposes a plan, many companies have a practice of obtaining approval from superiors and everyone else concerned. You can then get full cooperation from them to carry out the proposal. In addition, the person who made the proposal is rarely blamed even when the plan ends in failure. Non-Japanese often point out that no one makes a decision at a meeting. But Japanese place importance on gaining the consensus of all concerned.

Harmony is also maintained in the commercial world. In the USA, comparative advertisements that often highlights the superiority of a company’s products over that of rival companies are popular. But this method is not practiced much in Japan.

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