Non-verbal Communication

Silence
Japan’s indirectness reaches as far as its non-verbal communication. Unlike westerners who speak their minds at any point in time, the Japanese find it rude to interrupt in the middle of a conversation. In addition, silence is viewed as a time frame where people can think about what is being communicated and understand the concept behind the idea or comment being stated. Though westerners may feel uncomfortable sitting through silence, it is best to just relax and be patient while the Japanese take a moment to understand what has just been said.

Because the Japanese are so indirect, what is not being said also needs to be understood. In other words, you need to read through the lines and understand what is being implied.

Eye Contact
Looking someone in the eye is considered a sign of confidence in the Western world. Once again, this is another aspect that the Japanese are so uniquely different from the western world. To the Japanese, looking at someone straight in their eyes is considered rude and a means to a challenge. The Japanese will look down to show respect to the other person. Usually, the region of the Adam’s apple is where the Japanese tend to direct their sight.

Gestures
First and foremost, the Japanese people try to avoid showing their emotions in public. Their “uncommitted face” may not mean that they are not interested; they just don’t want to show too much expression.

They are also uncomfortable with any physical contact such as a hug. However, the Japanese do recognize the western tradition of shaking hands and would gladly adhere to that tradition, especially to make the relationship more personal.

Hand gestures should be used with caution. Because certain hand gestures have certain meaning behind them, using them at inappropriate times or the misinterpretation of the signal can be insulting to the Japanese.