In Japan, It is considered proper social etiquette to be able to use Honne and Tatemae to keep the harmony of the situation. Please try to discuss this post without using those two words.
Outside of my immediate family, nobody really knows me in Japan.
Why? Getting to know each other doesn't go much deeper than the superficial level, because harmony is the goal.
Hey, hey, hey! I've lived here long enough and feel comfortable making this general assertion! I'm not taking a jab at Japan either! The day-to-day harmony is a noticeable thing, because the superficial norm works. It works, because the harmony is a result from most of the people being happy and the main reason is because their only concern is to appear nice. Everybody does seem nice, but being nice in Japan equally means being the same as others.
-What is being nice?
-What's the basis for comparison?
Niceness is about going out of your way to improve an experience for somebody and refers to a characteristic of the person.
-If it's your job, are you being nice or just doing your job?
Niceness without warmth and friendliness is a perfunctory action.
Perfunctory is a word for faking kindness and hospitality to appear more tactful and descent than you really are. You're not being nice, you're being polite.
Politeness is only about meeting a social standard and refers to the behavior of a person when interacting with others. Politeness is subjective, because it's culturally different. A polite person acts in a manner within the cultural norms and does not negatively impact the interactions or relationships. Politeness is often superficial and more like diplomacy. We are easily flattered by superficial politeness and value it, because it makes us happy and the situation enjoyable.
Again, I'm not taking a jab at Japan! Every person has the same right to be happy and being superficial maintains that balance. You'll rarely encounter an impolite person here and if you do, it feels out of place. Now, don't get me wrong....there are unbearable people over here and in my experience, it's because these folks are at a position in their career and/or life where they drop the facade. They don't want to keep up the superficial politeness and they are not kind to the people around them.
Kindness is having a friendly disposition marked by consideration for others.
There are four types of kindness.
-Genuine kindness: This goes beyond manners and formalities. If you pretend to be nice to others or avoid conflict by staying quiet, it is not genuine.
-Performative kindness: This is acknowledging someones situation without sufficiently engaging to actually bear some portion of this other person's burden. It's also only being kind if there is something to be gained. Performative kindness is the norm!
-Manipulative kindness: This is when someone just says whatever they think the other person wants to hear to try and gain control of the situation. Children often use manipulative kindness to get something they want from their parents.
-Grandma's kindness: This is over-kindness, but with good intentions. Grandma's treat their grandkids like this by making them feel great all the time.
"Sure, you can have ice cream!"
Generalizing is never good!
For this post, I wanted to offer a bold general assertion to spark discussion.
Please keep in mind that I don't think all Japanese politeness is a mere show and I don't assume that all of Japanese society is full of disingenuous people. Harmony is the common good and individualism must be sacrificed to maintain it. It is a lot of work, because the common good does not just happen or maintain itself. Maintaining it requires the cooperative efforts of the majority and it's never ending.
I admire the self-sacrificing nature of it all and at the same time hate what it does to personal relationships. A sense of individual identity creates an amazing bond. This kind of bond is needed in a true friendship and without this sense of individuality, there's nothing to play off your own. There's nothing to enhance the areas in yourself that may have gone unnoticed, if the other person is self-serving.
I also think that being superficial hinders active learning, especially with conversation, because there will be a point in time when your individuality needs to come out. I understand the desire to keep up the facade, but if it's pushing back your own needs and fulfillment, it's important to step back and reevaluate yourself.