Q Why can't the Japanese say no?

A When the Japanese want to turn down a favor asked of them, they feel that a flat refusal would hurt the feeling of the other, so they end up saying, "I see, I'll think about it," or "I'll consider it."

By facial expression and how it is expressed in words the Japanese know to what extent the request will be considered or turned down by the other. Japan's culture is one that enables a person to perceive the intent of the other.

Who can blame the poor foreigner for not knowing what is meant and much more so by hearing it through an interpreter which leaves no room for doubt but to take it literally. The problem that arises is that the other person has the expectation that perhaps the request would be granted only to find out in the end that it was met with refusal. They then feel deceived rather than refused.

This stems from the discretion perpetually shown to the other person' s standpoint to maintain harmony, as well as indecisiveness on the part of the Japanese. The disposition of the Japanese also plays a role as well as the decision-making system of Japanese companies.

Decision making in Japan is, as a rule, largely based on consultation among the management. Even top management is not able to act on its own authority. However, decision making is carried out speedily in a small-scale dictatorially run company.