Because I do business all over the world, I have the opportunity to travel and learn unique skills. Unless you want to see quick disaster, it’s important to prepare carefully when meeting with counterparts from other cultures.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Japan. My experience with Japanese business leaders has always been positive. I appreciate the unique culture. On this trip, I was once again struck by the Japanese hospitality, by their respect, deference, and kindness.
If you’ve ever studied Japanese business etiquette, you may know that the norms are very different from Western standards.
- Rank and title are more meaningful than in the United States.
- Polite conversation normally requires frequent expressions of gratitude.
- Slightly bowing shows respect.
- Where to sit at a negotiation table, or at dinner, is carefully orchestrated by rank and standing.
- Business cards are exchanged with intention. Hold the business card with both hands and show respect to the person with a slight bow to it. Never put the card in your back pocket or casually put it away. Instead, place it close to your heart in a card case.
- The group is more important than the individual.
- Slurping soup is proper etiquette and shows your appreciation.
- Giving gifts is very important and is a ritualistic exchange.
- Toasting is important at dinner.
- Nodding is customary to show attention and comprehension.
- Nine is an unlucky number in Japan, making the subtitle of my new book problematic. Too late!
The list goes on and on.
“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” –Leonardo da Vinci
The Skill of Silence
There’s one particular skill, or habit, that I particularly noted. Japanese are much more comfortable with silence than in many other parts of the world.