Interactions between North Americans and Japanese :
Considerations of Communication Style
Communication style has a very big impact on the dynamics of face-to-face encounters, that is, whether a conversation proceeds smoothly or by fits and starts, whether both continually interrupt each other or are both able to talk simultaneously without interrupting and whether their style of listening match. Differences in ethnic background coupled with those of communication style probably increase chances that implicit unverbalized matters will be overlooked or misinterpreted. To be able to understand deeper and more sophisticated effects of style differences can take years. In exploring such differences of “the other”, one cannot help but come to understand the cultural factors that have shaped one’s own style. In the communication between Japanese and Non-Japanese there are intercultural communication blocks that have to be considered, which are, problems on direct and indirectness, individuality and groups view, decision making, and discussion.
Components of Communication Style
According to some experts there are various things included in the components of communication style, such as: topics of discussions, favorite interaction forms -ritual, repartee, argument, and self disclosure- and involvement depth, as well as the channel people rely upon (Dean Barlund) ; behaviors –gesticulation, eye contact, speech and kinetic rhythm, and listening behavior- (Erickson) ; interruptions, pauses, laughter, inductive and deductive statements, and types of question ( E.S Johnson). However, in this discussion, there are three variables suggested as a core to explore communication style: (1) orientation to interaction, (2) code preference, and (3) interaction format. These are not to be understood as stereotype descriptions of all members of any cultural group but rather as stylistic preferences of the cultural group as a whole. Communication style orientations are anchored in cultural standards but allow for individual movement depending upon the situation and cultural constraints.
1. Orientation to Interaction
Locus of Self
View of Reality
The North American built the values of self-sufficiency and independence. It is important to acknowledge differences of experience, ability, and opinion which separate individuals and highlight who we are. Japanese are less anchored by an internally identified self-concept as by lines leading to friends, colleagues, and family. The orientation brought to North Americans was objectivity, emphasizing a belief in cause and effect in linear determinism. Validity and reliability are prerequisites of “solid” research; conclusions or action plans should follow clearly from premises and needs analyses. In contrast, Japanese have traditionally been more oriented toward a human relations (ningen kankei) reality: “In order to attain an end, whether social or nonsocial, the creation, maintenance, or manipulation of a relevant social relationship is a foremost and indispensable means.” Thus, in their style of communication Japanese preferred passive-withdrawing forms that allowed interpersonal accommodation with the target person, while the North Americans frequently chose more individualistic, active-aggressive forms of criticism and focused on the objective problem rather than the person. However, within the two cultural ideals presented, then there is evidence of change: North Americans are being criticized for extreme focus on self and urged to consider the rewards of more collective attitudes, while the Japanese are becoming aware that intergroup competition and intragroup divisiveness can be paralyzing; they begin to recognize the importance of being more objective in planning and problem solving.
2. Code Preference
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