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You Have to Be a Good Listener As a Worker in Japan

You Have to Be a Good Listener As a Worker in Japan

Non-Japanese people often say Japanese are good listeners. The Japanese have an expression, “Hear one, understand 10.” In other words, listen carefully for both what is said and what is not said. The Japanese are masters at reading between the lines.

Early in life, Japanese students learn to listen closely in class and figure things out for themselves. A school teacher says, “What? Didn’t you hear me when I explained it last week? Why didn’t you read the text book?” Based on experiences like this, Japanese listen carefully in meetings, and rarely ask for explanations of points they do not understand.

Japanese conversational style gives the listener paralanguage that is an indispensible part of the circle of communication. Called “aizuchi,” these are sounds the listener makes to indicate that he or she is listening, such as “hmm hmm.” The rhythm of the speaker and the aizuchi of the listener form a harmonious communication. Without aizuchi, the speaker may feel less comfortable continuing to speak.