What Japan Can Teach the World About Communication / コミュニケーションに関して世界が日本から学べるもの

“When one teaches, two learn.”Robert A. Heinlein

I recently returned from conducting workshops throughout Japan on behalf of the State Department, U.S. Embassy and Consulates with one goal – to teach Japanese executives, future leaders and top college students how to incorporate “Western” communication and presentation skills into each individual’s communication repertoire.

Japanese students are taught very differently than are U.S. students, and the expectations for speeches and presentations are different. Lectures are lectures, and questions from an audience are rare. Emotion, regardless of topic, from a presenter is infrequent. Powerful openings, calls to action and use of story are not the norm. Developing a very clear, coherent and compelling message is not taught. Frequent interaction with the audience isn’t either.

My job was to present ideas and methods that were completely contrarian to those methods…and it worked. Audience members had an immediate chance to implement these new lessons and give presentations, which is where my teaching stopped, and my learning began.

So what can communicators from the West learn from our counterparts in Japan?

1) Courteousness – Lecturing to hundreds of people, not once did someone look at their Smartphone – a regular occurrence in any U.S. audience. All eyes remained on the speaker. The advent of “smart” devices has a distracting effect on audience members, and while a speaker might be ineffective at delivering his or her message, that does not mean it is acceptable to be impolite. One thing we can all learn from the Japanese is how to be an audience. No smartphone use, no banter while someone is speaking, and plenty of support for colleagues who are willing to try new things;

2) Open Minds – I present in a way that is completely different than what many Japanese audiences are used to – I involve the crowd throughout, walking around, and making the entire workshop is interactive. People tend to cast a skeptical eye toward someone imparting information that runs contrary to the information, and communication method, they have learned for decades, and utilize now in the working world. That did not happen – each audience member, no matter how skeptical, shy or nervous, participated and approached each exercise with an open mind.

3) Support – Presenting can be scary. Presenting in a second language is even more intimidating. To a person, each and every speaker had the full attention, encouragement and support of the audience – it was amazing. Each participant utilized learned techniques immediately, and everyone participated – not an easy, or comfortable, thing to do. The peer support made all the difference.

Empowering Japanese students and future leaders with additional tools to communicate even more effectively makes for a stronger Japan, and that benefits us all. In a world that grows increasingly smaller, the opportunity to interact and become stronger cross-cultural communicators is crucial to our mutual success.







1) 礼儀正しさ-数百人を前に講演をしていると、アメリカの聴衆ではよくあることですが、誰かがスマートフォンに目をやることが一切ありません。全員が話し手に目を向けています。「高性能」機器の出現は聴衆メンバーにとっては気が散る要素であり、講義中の話し手はおそらく何の影響も受けないからといって無礼な態度をとることが許されるわけではありません。私たちすべてが日本人から学べることは、いかに聴衆となるかということです。スマートフォンは使わない、誰かが話している時にはひやかしたりしない、新しいことに挑戦している仲間たちを一生懸命に応援することです。

2) オープンマインド-私は日本人聴衆の多くが慣れ親しんでいる方法とは完全に異なる方法で発表をします。つまり、始終群衆と関わりあい、歩き回り、ワークショップ全体を対話的にするのです。人は、自分が何十年もかかって学び、現在の仕事環境において活用している情報およびコミュニケーション手段に逆らう情報を伝える人間に対しては懐疑的な目を向ける傾向があります。しかし、それが起こらなかったのです。どんなに懐疑的、内気、もしくは神経質であろうとも、各聴衆メンバーはそれぞれの練習に広い心を持って参加し、取りかかりました。

3) サポート-発表をすることは人に恐れを抱かせる可能性があります。第二言語で発表するとなると、さらに恐ろしいです。どの話し手も、その人に対する聴衆の完全な注目、励ましとサポートがあり、素晴らしいものでした。それぞれの参加者は学んだ技術をただちに利用し、全員が簡単でもなければ必ずしもやりたいものではないことに参加しました。仲間のサポートがあってこその結果でした。


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One Response to “What Japan Can Teach the World About Communication / コミュニケーションに関して世界が日本から学べるもの”

  1. Matt,  we could all learn something from the Japanese.  It was amazing to see how respectful they were even when their country was rocked by the tsunami and the nuclear accident – no looting and everyone waiting patiently and respectfully in line for what they needed.  Impressive to say the least.

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