Married Life: American and Japanese (Watch Your Language)

Good communication is an invaluable tool found in every successful leader's arsenal of capabilities. It is also a corner-stone in every successful marriage. As a couple grows with each other both physically and emotionally, so does their ability to communicate their needs and their ability to create real conflict resolution.

The trouble arises when you and your spouse don't fully understand one another. This may seem odd to some and I can imagine that others are entirely perplexed. How and why would you marry someone you can't speak to? Although I'm sure that does happen, what I mean is that many foreigners are capable of speaking English well but are often confused by slang or very casual English.

Due to the fact that the English language is a living and breathing thing, so to speak, it evolves and transforms with every new generation. It is difficult enough for native English speakers to follow the new slang and terms, it seems a little unfair to ask someone who is learning to also retain the slang and text short cuts such as lol, tbh, btw, FYI, idk, etc. ..

Practice Patience! Sometimes you are going to have to spell it out or rephrase your sentence. At the beginning of my marriage my husband and I would have arguments over some very simple communication errors.

I will offer two short phrases Americans use often but we don't really think about the weight of their perceived meaning.

"I don't care" When Americans use this phrase in a passive tone it is to vocalize a general indifference or it used as another way to say "I don't mind" "you can do that".

Unfortunately to foreigners (particularly those coming from less casual cultures such as Japan) this phrase seems to be suggesting that the American does not care about something they deem to be important and is therefore being rude.

I am mentioning this particular phrase because is sparked a three year fight between my mother and my husband. The Japanese have many demons and stories based around grudges because I personally believe the Japanese can hold grudges like no one else.

A similar phrase "That doesn't matter" or any variation in American culture is often used as a way to comfort someone who is upset over something that may seem insignificant to most. For example if someone is upset over a low test score their friends may try to help by saying one test doesn't really matter. This is akin to "don't sweat the small stuff", "no use crying over spilt milk" or "what done is done" … etc …

Again to some foreigners may take these phases as more of an insult than an attempt to console them. Many Japanese men (in particular) tend to over analyze what Americans would consider to be minor problems. They frequently worry over all the small details of life and can be put on the defense if they feel someone close to them (their partner) is belittling their concerns.

What should you do if you and your partner are already arguing?

I have found that asking my husband a series of questions as calmly as I can often helps me figure out where the misunderstanding is deriving from. Most often either he or I simply misunderstood the meaning. Other times we realize we have yet another cultural barrier to over come.

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