We will have a look at business talk in Japan.
Today, we will have a brief look at something that has baffled foreigners for a long time. It is the question of “face”.
Some of you may have heard the expression `Honne` and `Tatemae`. This can be translated as `Real Intention` and `Principle`. The difference between honne and tatemae can be genuinely confusing to
foreigners visiting and doing business in Japan as this refers to the difference between what one says and one thinks. It is not an attempt to deceive the other party, as most business talks (Shodan) in Japan proceed with the understanding that this fine boundary is understood. The confusion arises when one party, the foreign side, is not aware of this and takes things literally.
To grasp someone`s real intention, it is vital to keep track of their every word and gesture.
In Japanese, “Hai” does not mean “yes”. It really means “I hear you and I understand what you are saying” and nothing more. May foreigners on hearing the word “Hai”, assume that some sort of agreement has been reached.
A smile can contain a light sense of denial, and should not always be accepted at face value.
The Japanese avoid direct expression of their honne, using various signs to convey it. The only way to cultivate understanding of this process is, unfortunately, through experience!