No Words Necessary, Across Cultures

I wrote about silence in relationships, here and here. Neil Remington Abramson commented further, as follows (reproduced with permission):

The silence of the lifeline” resonates for me. We often sit in the car driving to some distant location, not speaking, but not unconnected. I think when a relationship first starts out, the couple needs to be talking all the time, out of the insecurity of possibly making a poor impression. And for the extrovert, constant talking is the good impression. For the introvert, s/he likes to have thought out what s/he is talking about, and there is silence before discussion. There was a very lovely ad on TV a few months ago. Two people are driving in a car silently. We hear the guy thinking. He is kicking himself that he is blowing this first date because he can’t think what to say; he’s making such a bad impression. By contrast, she is very happy. She’s finally found a guy she can relax with, who doesn’t talk all the time. I forget what they were selling.

When my wife and I got married, both for the second time, I thought the cross-cultural differences would be hard to overcome. My wife is Japanese; she grew up in a 1950s/60s Japan that was basically a Third World country, recovering from the war. She originally came from a relatively small Japanese town. After 5 years in the USA as a teen, and 20 years in Canada starting years later, she is still very Japanese.

And I came from 1950s New York City; flush in the materialistic frenzy and over abundance, post WWII. And I never experienced anything Japanese growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. My first experience was a Japanese steakhouse in Regina in the 1980s, and a sushi restaurant in Niagara Falls in 1991. I knew a lot more about China than I ever did about Japan.

The odd thing is that we haven’t had hardly any difficulties. I think the reason was that we both had approximately the same Jungian/MBTI/Keirsey personality type. Not the same frequencies, but the same nominal categories. So, for example, we are both introverts, and happy sitting in the car, quietly.

I did some research on this. I studied the independent effects of personality and culture on cross cultural business relationship-building. It turned out – the statistics supported – that Canadians and Koreans with personality commonalities encountered reduced cross cultural differences, because the similarities in personality reduced key cultural differences.

It shouldn’t be surprising that there are similar personalities, across cultures, but academic disciplines often don’t cross-pollinate. Personality is the bailiwick of personality psychology. Cross cultural studies are the bailiwick of comparative management. The latter says personality has no effect. It’s hard to argue with a predominant theory, even with evidence.

The life of my wife and I is part of that evidence, in some small way. We are still comfortable riding quietly, and without the grand physical gestures of intimacy common in the West that you rarely, if ever, see in Japan. We go to the pub, have a beer, talk as animatedly as any introverts approximate extroverts, and have a great time. Maybe a bit of that common vision you have written about.


About brucelarochelle
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