TIM BUNTING

KIWI YAMABUSHI

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Constructive Criticism in Japan

In a nutshell: The Japanese people’s inability to deal with confrontation leads to slow progress.

In Japanese culture, confronting someone is the worst thing you can do. So much so, if something will involve confrontation in the future, they try any method possible to avoid it, even if it damages the reputation and profitability of the company.

What this means is that you get people who are not at all used to being confronted, so when they are, they shut down or get overly defensive, making it much harder to convince them to change their ways, even if evidence clearly shows they are wrong. Many Japanese people confuse confrontation with criticism, taking any form of criticism as confrontation. This means it can be very hard at times to provide constructive criticism, you have to be very careful about the ways in which you go about providing this criticism. Sometimes you have to go to great lengths to criticise someone without offending them. This takes time.

I realised that I haven’t spent much time around native English speakers, meaning I have been spending it with Japanese people, and this is having an effect on my thinking (I’m not trying to sound better than you by saying I’ve become more Japanese, just pointing out my realisations). I think this might be why in recent times I have tended to avoid giving any form of criticism, hoping that people will realise their ways.

I realised that this ignores the benefits that criticism can offer in moving things forward, another reason why Japanese people may be slow to react to change. So recently I have been trying to take down the filters I have been putting up, and speaking my mind. I realised I’ve been out of practice with this, so I need to get better at providing constructive criticism, and the way to do that, as with everything, is through practice. By offering criticism more, I hope more people will be comfortable with it if it is expressed in a positive way for positive progress.

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Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

tim@timbunting.com

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