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Module 8.4

Listen Up! Messages You Can Rely on


In a society where tatemae plays a prominent role, how can you tell whether someone is speaking from the heart or just saying what they are supposed to say in a particular situation? Is it ever possible to know when someone is telling you what they really think or feel?

If much of what people say to one another reflects tatemae, how can you convince others that you are sincere about what you are telling them and not simply being polite? How can you effectively express negative feelings about something without doing damage to your relationships?

Even inside uchi, although honne communication is more frequent, members may still be circumscribed in expressing honne (as Janine's case illustrates below). For all these situations there is still a ray of light. Another channel exists for communicating (and receiving) 'honne' messages: indirect communication, or using "others" to facilitate your communication.

1. The following cases show indirect communication being used to express positive emotions:

    Molly 6: I'm Otoosan's "American Daughter"
    Theo 2: Speaking My Heart in Front of Strangers
  • In front of Molly, the otoosan is talking to distant guests about her, emphasizing the things she has done for him and how close he feels to her. Why does he tell these things about Molly to the guests?
  • The otoosan is quite drunk by the time he begins talking about Molly. How does the otoosan being drunk influence his communication?
  • Why couldn't the communications in either Molly or Theo's cases have taken place just as effectively directly, and in private?


2. In the next two cases, indirect communication is being used to communicate negative emotions, or unpleasant messages.
    Janine 4: Okaasan Speaks Out: Sweet Revenge
    Elena 1: Hearing the Truth from a Stranger
(female, Latvia )
  • Why couldn't Janine's okaasan discuss the issues directly with the otoosan? (See 6.2 and 7.3 if you need to review this.)
  • Do you think the communication strategy Janine's okaasan used was effective? Did she accomplish what she wanted to?
  • Why did Elena's okaasan choose to communicate with Elena via a neighbor? What was she trying to avoid by doing that?
3. Putting things together . . . the use of "others" to facilitate communication:
  • RECEIVING MESSAGES: While you cannot always rely on direct communication for feedback, this section should make you aware of the crucial importance of indirect channels. Public situations, conversations with visitors or outsiders, third party messages, and (especially) drunken comments should never be discounted. Be alert! Put these onto your radar screen precisely because indirect messages can be taken seriously.
  • SENDING MESSAGES: If you remain aware of the potential for embarrassment, unease, or negative feelings, it is possible to make very beneficial use of indirect communication channels.

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