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Speaking Japanese Crossculturally

It’s difficult to control external pandemic but we can try our different ways to keep our spirits that are inside us.

Hello friends!

For Dec. 17th webinar about “Special Japanese Phrases That Make Japanese Bosses and Customers SMILE(^^)”, some 80 people have registered so far. I'm surprised.


Going through their questions everyday, I felt an urge to give you a glimpse of what we’ll be doing then. One hour may not allow us to go as deep as below but I just wanted you to know the message I'm trying to get across to through my webinars.

Someone from France asked.

"I understand relationship is important for business partnership. What if the Japanese partner underperforms and we need to look for different partner? What is your recommendation?"


Wow, interesting question! … but it's difficult to communicate your dilemmas in Japanese or in any language, isn’t it? What would be your recommendation?

Here’s mine.

●Japanese principle: People work in a close-knit web of stakeholders inside and outside an organisation. Hence decisions are made out of a sense of obligation and return of favours to make sure everyone is happy.

●Strategy: Blame it on your internal pressure, not on your partner.

●How you can say: “It has become very difficult, Tanaka san, for us to use this product because I’m in a difficult spot being unable to show the minimum quality data to Laurent our quality chief. After a long discussion, we want to see a new prototype which will be our last attempt to pass the internal go-ahead. I know it’ll pressure your team but I want you to know my hard situation.” (I wrote this from a Japanese mind. You may want to adjust according to your style)


●Lesson: This is a case of using "personal pressure" coming from an internal customer, quality chief. Also the French man is tactfully using “us” “our”, prompting the Japanese man to feel the pain as his that his product is imposing on the French customer. This works. Furthermore, the French man is so “humane” to give the Japanese the last chance to recover.


This is how a customer nurtures a supplier in Japan by tackling the problem together, rather than closing the deal and looking for a replacement right away.


●Question: You may wonder why above scenario works with Japanese business partners. Why not simply tell them the product doesn’t meet the standard and they can’t wait any longer?


In Japan how you conduct business equals how you as a human being see relationship. What do I mean? Well, who knows—after a few years, the French man’s business goes bad and the Japanese supplier may appear as a lifesaver! That is “mochitsu motaretsu” or a mutal help.


●Conclusion: If you want to say no to a Japanese person, use your personal pressure from inside or outside, not from your very business partner across the video screen as long as the situation allows. Appeal to your pain despite your best effort to protect your partner.


Appeal to your pain despite your best effort to protect your partner.


Whatever you say, your partner will be hurt but still feel appreciative to you for treating him as an important partner. It is likely he feels indebted and returns you a favour when he can in the future. The key is emotions and attitude of working together in a give-and-take spirit.


Speaking Japanese is more than speaking the language. It is to experience an alternative lifestyle admist an ego-centric society.

Folks, let me hear your stories and I'll see how I can make you smile on Dec. 17th.

*Details & registration of webinar.

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