Japan stole my heart for many reasons. (1): There’s a principle the Japanese people live by, which roughly translates to: “Read the air.” What does this mean? Well, when you enter a social situation it’s your job to literally “read the air,” meaning if the room feels mellow, you don’t walk in loud and aggressive. You blend. If you’ve had the worst day and you enter a party and everyone is happy, well it’s time to get happy. You don’t walk in like a miserable tornado killing the vibe!
There’s a selflessness in this that moved me. Our Japanese host said, “Japanese people don’t talk about themselves much, we prefer listening. We never want anyone to feel bad.” So, what you’re telling me is that in social situations what is polite is to listen and be aware of others? That I shouldn’t suck the air out and make it about myself?? WHAT!? That’s weird!!
The world I come from (maybe it’s just entertainment)… but I am constantly being told…
“You need to sell yourself.”
“Show how awesome and funny you are”
“Exaggerate how cool that job you just booked is.”
“Boast. Be big. Lie a little. Whatever it takes to show just how fabulous your life is.”
I don’t know about you.. but that feels terrible. Also I’m terrible at it.
I can’t tell you how many parties I’ve been to where there is “that guy,” that really loud guy, surrounded, chatting about great he is. Meanwhile I’m awkwardly in the corner with a glass of wine praying for the evening to end.
But here in Japan, we had ten strangers in a bar (a bar that could literally fit ten people, named “Tight”)… everyone was talking. Laughing. Even the bartender was included. No one was the loser in the corner. It was one of those rare evenings that was just fun. I felt confident. I enjoyed every person in that room. I got to know them. They got to know me. Not the boasty LA version, but the quirky, kind, honest me.
It wasn’t that sometimes the spotlight wasn’t on an individual. It was, but they didn’t hog it. They were constantly passing the light on. I think that’s maybe it. It’s standing in the light, but also knowing when it’s time to shine the light on someone else. If everyone in the room is choosing to do that, then suddenly each person is getting a chance to be heard, to be seen, to feel good. Isn’t that what we all want? What we all REALLY NEED?
So next time “that guy” walks into to your mellow party screaming, “shots!” Kindly whisper into his ear; “read the air, bro.”
Me at the super awesome Alice and Wonderland restaurant..(more Japan tips to come)