Restraint (遠慮) became in the course of the centuries a central attitude of the Japanese culture. The associated, apparently non-binding nature that is perceived as cagey in the west, has the purpose to avoid embarrassing the other people. This is done by rarely expressing directly the personal opinion in formal meetings with several participants. Messages are rather indirectly formulated without words and in a vague way. Contrary to the western “the winner gets all” mentality, in which there is always just one winner, the modesty offers everybody the possibility to save their face. In the last seventy years that did not stop Japan of becoming an economic global power.
Which advantages could we exploit in the west?
- More substance than appearance
Many results are not really as bad as it seems at first sight. Since the involved people tend to create too high expectations in their communication and often use superlatives, even in case of eventually modest results, it is difficult to get realistic evaluations. Additionally there is not enough leeway for the evaluation of really genuine results. This leads to the fact that the protagonists actually hold high demands on themselves – I can do everything. At the same time expectations are driven into illusory heights. This kind of high expectations cannot be fulfilled any longer.
With the appropriate modesty goals could be agreed so smart that they are really attainable. To get more substance than appearance you should use superlatives only in exceptional cases, like for example: best, fastest, safest, most reliable, most favorable…
- Rather Daedalus than Icarus
Icarus is the classical example of hubris. This extreme form of pride and boastfulness produce unrealistic strategies. Icarus paid with his life for it. But as long as the individual survives his misjudgment, he will plan ever more risky ventures. And if the moment of truth comes, then the responsible person leaves the place of occurrence, carries his hubris forward and turns the next time a still larger wheel. The evolving collateral damage destroys the points of reference in the respective area. The employees get infected and are likewise addicted to a presumptuous exuberance.
With the appropriate modesty the complacent hubris would be limited to a healthy level. For this purpose you do not have to put your light under a bushel, but to follow the example of Daedalus. With the appropriate attentiveness concerning your own behavior, you have the chance to nip the hubris in the bud.
- Avoiding colonialism
The overconfidence leads after a certain time to a form of colonialism. The others are perceived as inferior. This steadily increasing craving for recognition needs results in ever more unrealistic imaginations. One day the colonialists are no longer taken seriously.
With the respective modesty the momentum to heal the world with your own essence would be reduced. All actions that load the team with negative energy harm in the end you. As soon as that you understand it, you have the choice – going on as before with the risk to fail on a long-term basis or to suppress the colonialism and to make everybody successful through an appreciating interaction.
- Avoid populism
Populism shows up in active offenses and continual insults. The others are dumb. Only we have the truth. Thus everybody, who does not belong to, is systematically excluded. This creates resistance of the people concerned and leaves the populists in ignorant hubris.
With the respective modesty there would be sufficient room for respect. And respect would offer the affected people the possibility to master the assigned tasks. The largest destroyers of creative power are negative messages. Thereafter the apparent revaluation of oneself does not help anymore.
Some people believe that modesty drops one back. However, since the excessive promises of the other people rarely produce satisfying results, soon the chaff separates from the wheat. The result is determined by the bar height that has to be crossed. If the bar is too high, you can only tear it. Only the fulfilled order is the order fulfilled – and eighty percent is a good result, not twenty percent.
Bottom line: Since superlatives are too often used, it is time, to try the proven Asian modesty also in the west. Thus the rising requirement attitude and only with difficulty fulfill able expectations are brought to a realistic level. That way the hubris, the associated snobbism and the insulting defamations do evolve not so often. Eventually better results are possible through the advantages of modesty, since all involved people can make their utmost contribution.