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Japanese Falling Asleep on Meetings


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Why Do Japanese Fall Asleep In Meetings?

Santiago Puente Gallegos Intercultural Management 2341

March 9, 2016

Bill Louden

Why Do Japanese Fall Asleep In Meetings?

According to Rochelle Koop the reason why Japanese fall asleep in meetings is because “Japanese believe that by closing their eyes, they can hear more effectively, because they are screening out the visual stimulus and focusing only on the sound” (Koop, 2011, p.109). After I was reading this case study, and I wondered what would be my reaction if people stayed silent after I spoke? A lot of things came through my mind. For example, as a Hispanic I would think that Japanese falling asleep during my speech is rude and disrespectful. Probably, I would walk away and leave the office. But I have to consider that not all cultures and customs are the same as ours. On the other hand, I would put my mind working and begin thinking that Japanese are probably evaluating my speech, are visualizing my ideas, or that like the author states, “I’m so boring that this key person is sleeping” ( Koop, 2011, p.109). I have to think that in the business world, I might find people that will like my speech and others that won’t. As I always say that this world everything is not rosy. I might have my ups and downs, but always with a positive mind. I will try to make a better speech for the people and that I will make sure that they don’t stay silent. People’s opinion is very important to me, and a good feedback won’t hurt anybody. Moreover, this will make me grow much better as a person and bring a better presentation on my speech.

In my culture, senior managers display their authority by scheduling meetings at least one or two weeks in advance, expect foreign visitors to be punctual, and call their name, if they have and academic title, such as Doctor or Professor, or a professional title such as Ingeniero, Licenciado, or Arquitecto, followed by the father’s name. When doing business in Mexico, senior managers listen carefully to everything you speak, and tend to visualize what their business will look like in future years. Also, they maintain eye contact with the person who is talking. Nothing compares with the Japanese: “Often, closed eyes is a sign that a Japanese person is listen intensely” (Koop 2011, p.109). Mexico, on the other hand, will feel offended if one of their people is giving the speech to the Japanese, and that closed their eyes. Mexicans will think that Japanese don’t have any interest in dong any business with them and might walk away. But as Rochelle Koop stated, “I saw a Senior American executive at one of my clients, a major Japanese firm… and he said, ‘Rochelle, I’m going to have to make you eat your words about Japanese really concentrating when they are closing their eyes in meetings, because at our shareholder’s meeting there were several guys who really were sleeping, there was no doubt about it’” (Koop, 2011, p. 110). In my opinion, I think it is rude when someone closes their eyes during an important meeting, but that is Japanese’s culture and we have to deal with it. Moreover, Mexico and Japan are considered as high-context cultures, and that they rely more on their indirect verbal interactions that both countries have clearly defined their roles of authority.

Other non-verbal communication that can be misinterpreted will be gestures and positioning. For example, for many American business executives, they will enjoy relaxing their feet up on their desks. Unlikely, for a person from Saudi Arabia or Thailand doing this, is extremely insulting, because the foot is considered dirtiest part of the body. Therefore, for Americans this might be like a normal day and comfortable for them. Another example of non-verbal communication is that “in Japanese culture being quiet is thought to be more dignified, and thus is more appropriate for a senior person than being talkative” (Koop, 2011, p.110). For Americans this is the opposite because “having the most senior person takes the lead in the meeting and does the most talking” (Koop, 2011, p.110).

In conclusion, before doing business in another country we have to learn their culture, customs and their traditions because not all the countries are the same. Otherwise, you might have some surprises.


Dumetz, Jerome (2012).Cross-Cultural Management Textbook. San Bernardino, CA Case Study 3.1: Why Do Japanese Fall Asleep In Meetings?

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