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Eye Contact with Japanese Businessmen Essay

In Japan, the businessmen avoid eye contact. The businessmen would rather not waste their time and distract other men, especially their senior officers. Distractions may be embarrassing, especially when one should be focusing on the task at hand. In this research paper, comparisons among America and its culture will be displayed to accumulate ideas on why the Japanese avoid eye contact. There is more than one factor playing in Japanese customs on avoiding eye contact. This paper generates ideas from animalistic behavior, to parental control, to busy cities, to friends, to professional NBA players, and to a religion that began in the United States. Not only is eye contact distracting, but also unnecessary while the notion of withdrawing oneself can be seen as helpful to cope with certain conditions in the environment.

As we study cultures we can determine the differences between countless etiquettes and mannerisms across the world. Looking at two separate countries, we can compare what is considered acceptable and unacceptable. Because we live in the Unites States, it is easy to know what we, as Americans, should do and not do in a business meeting. If American businessmen, especially ones who are uninformed, meet with Japanese businessmen, the possibility of embarrassing or offending the Japanese culture is likely when conducting business at an absolute or selfish angle. The Japanese culture maintains a business that is great on group effort and loyalty. With these certain characteristics, the Japanese take on many roles to support their ways of humility. This is why we can see the Japanese businessmen intentionally avoiding eye-contact with other businessmen during a meeting to preserve modesty.

Business is a consolidation within man to form an agreement at peace. We learn from studies of history and animals that staring is a sign of aggression. When eye contact is made, a mutual reflection of a challenge (or fight) occurs. Both parties may not want to partake or antagonize a fight, but when the eyes of humans and animals alike connect, the brain will induce a chemical reaction that triggers responses in the body to take action in order to defend itself. Now in a business setting, the Japanese aren’t ones to create a fight when a disagreement occurs. This is a way to respect senior decisions to avoid acting naive. If we take a look at the American culture, we can see how American parents confront their children when the children are misbehaving. Young children will naturally want to stop all eye-contact and maybe even run away. To correct this behavior, parents are told to maintain eye contact while communicating with their child. This is a way to build trust in a healthy relationship.

When we think of the word “business,” its easy for Americans to think of New York City, a place of a heavily, dense population of business trafficking. The place can be described as busy because everyone is running around while trying to get to their next business meeting. It wouldn’t be considered rude if someone bumped into you by accident if they were rushing into a taxi cab. A newcomer to the city might, at first, be outraged, but in time city dwellers are accustomed to it. In Japan, perhaps eye-contact avoidance is another practice due to high population.

The Japanese is one culture to like their privacy. A great way to ruin one’s privacy is to intentionally engage in eye-contact, especially with a prolonged engagement. Imagine coming home from work everyday in public transportation and running into an unknown interval. One thing a person might do is make eye-contact with a stranger to see if the stranger is aware of this interval. Now imagine you are conducting a meeting and you come across some interval in your way. An instinctive reaction is to seek help. However, in an important business meeting, this is a devastating episode in which you may bring down a friend if he is unaware of this interval as well. The best thing to do, in Japanese customs, is to own up and not throw your best friend under the bus with you. How should you do it? Perhaps avoid eye contact and stay calm with your best manners at hand.

The Japanese are known to close their eyes when they are listening intently. This is a reaction to block out from sensing other things that are going on in the room. In America, we can find many distracting things that are meant to distract you. If you go to an NBA playoff game and watch a professional basketball player attempt a free-throw at an away game, you will see almost everyone in the audience do their best to distract the player, in order for him to miss the free-throw. You will hear loud noises, see shirts waving, and even see fan memorabilia made, bought, and obtained for that sole purpose during a free-throw shooting. One American religion, called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints shows reverence similar to the Japanese eye contact phenomenon.

During a sacrament meeting at the LDS church, many people will give talks or performances such as singing or violin playing. In one, hour long meeting, there may be up to 5 or more people conducting a session. After each person concludes their talk or performance, it is in the Mormon practice to show gratitude with reverence. The LDS members will keep quiet during the session without gossip or clapping to maintain the spirit. Comparing the Japanese to an LDS sacrament session, closing the eyes and being reverent is a way to block out an unnecessary force. As we can determine in an NBA playoff game, there is no room for respect. Players will have to play hard and with whatever comes in their way.

Eye contact is a method to show people “I am here.” People have an ambition, or sometimes a reaction, to make one’s presence known. We do it for attention, for work, or to make new friends. However, the Japanese have grown accustomed in a practice of avoiding eye-contact when things are busy and sometimes serious. In the business place, respecting senior officers is important to maintain one’s own status while progressing in rank. It is important for the Japanese not to discourage other businessmen or to bother them during a stressful time. How else can one show respect than to maintain a personal boundary?


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