December 09, 2008

Understanding Japanese women (and introverts)


Browsing through David Radtke's Understanding Japanese Women blog--which isn't as Orientalist as it sounds--it becomes clear that as much as Japanese women, Radtke is attempting to communicate an understanding of introverts.

I often find myself laughing out loud at his advice. Not because it's wrong. But because most of it applies equally well to me, a white American male and grade-A introvert. To illustrate, I'll tweak a few excerpts from various posts:

Right now you could be destroying your romance with your [introvert]. How? By clinging to [him] too much.

Remember, calm politeness [for an introvert] is one way of distancing [himself] from others. If your [introvert] is acting very polite and not warm and loving, [he] is actually putting up a barrier between the two of you.

[Introverts] prefer to quietly deal with bad situations rather than to verbalize their disapproval. This works in arguments as well.

[Introverts] yearn to have a marriage where unspoken understanding becomes the normal way to "communicate."

In conclusion, [introverts] just prefer to have less and less conversation as the relationship progresses deeper and deeper.

I'm not at all surprised by this confusion of culture and personality. As Jonathan Rauch observed in his landmark Atlantic essay on being an introvert in an extroverted world:

Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion.

It's possible that, limited to his wife (and girlfriends), Radtke's sociology suffers from a too-small sample size. But if a quarter of the American population is "introverted" (Rauch's guess), then by American standards, I can imagine a 75/25 split in the opposite direction in Japan.

After all, from 1603 to the mid-19th century, along with Sartre, Japan officially declared that "Hell is other people." The battle cry leading up to the overthrow of the Tokugawa regime was Son'nou Joui! "Revere the Emperor; expel the barbarians!"

The Tokugawa Era now holds a place in popular culture similar to that of the American West. The classic Japanese old geezer rant is how great things were before them dang "Black Ships" (referring to Commodore Perry's 1852-1854 mission to Japan) showed up.

The difference is that Radtke is willing to admit that different can indeed be good (though it might take some getting used to). But back here in the good old U.S.A., Rauch points out, introversion is diagnosed as a disease to be cured--with more extroversion.

If you think that, then "you are probably driving [your introvert] nuts."

Related posts

Life is a sim
Up with introverts
Useful Japanese stereotypes

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