On November 25th, 2016, Nathan DeWitt, a consultant at Link Global Solution, Inc., returned to Rikkyo University to speak to first year students in the College of Business about differences in cultural discussion styles. Mr. DeWitt gave a very interactive presentation that weaved in his own personal history with rich, descriptive examples of cross-cultural communication differences in action.
Mr. DeWitt explained a significant difference in cultural communication styles between Japan and the West in business discussions through the metaphors of golf vs. rugby, using these metaphors to explain Confucian and Socratic discussion styles. Mr. DeWitt described Japanese discussion styles as Confucian, with a respect for hierarchy and waiting for one's turn to speak. Western discussion styles, on the other hand, were described as Socratic, involving active and simultaneous participation. The Confucian style can be compared to golf, which is very ordered and turn-based, while the Socratic style can be compared to rugby, which is more simultaneous and improvised. Mr. DeWitt highlighted the importance for discussants who were raised in either cultural style to respect the different orientations to conversation, and to understand that although the goals of negotiation may be similar, the rules of playing can be very different.
Mr. DeWitt paused in his presentation several times to have students interact in pairs and presentation was followed by question and answer periods in the middle and at the end of the presentation, during which the audience actively participated in asking many questions.
Reported by Brian Guthrie (Course Leader)