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Re: On using tact

by Lexicon (Chaplain)
on Feb 27, 2001 at 09:59 UTC ( #61038=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to On using tact

As I stated in CB, I agree wholeheartedly. However, the excessive use of tact is currently driving me up the wall. A refresher: I'm in Japan for a year, Japanese has more built in honorifics than any language I'm aware of, Japanese social constructs focus around Harmony above all else. A warning: this has nothing (directly) to do with Perl. But I think we're all above that.

Main Entry: tact Pronunciation: 'takt Function: noun
Etymology: French, sense of touch, from Latin tactus, from tangere to touch -- more at TANGENT
Date: 1797
1 : sensitive mental or aesthetic perception "converted the novel into a play with remarkable skill and tact"
2 : a keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others or avoid offense

That said, the Japanese are so tactful it's sometimes hard to get anything done. I'm sure I strike them as a barbarian, but at least I can communicate with other barbarians; they have trouble communiating with each other.

Example 1: I'm teaching javascript and basic perl to our web developer. The Japanese have a habit during conversation of acknowledging the speaker after every phrase/pause with a 'yes' or 'ahhh' or 'I see' or equivalent. This doesn't mean they understand you, but when I act like I'm done teaching him (because I thought he understood) he won't ask anymore. After getting the same question in different form a few times, I've learned to ask directly whether he actually understands or not.

Example 2: My bosses will never ask each other if I've been assigned a task, partially because they assume the other will be doing their job and have given me the necessary specs (Japanese specs are a whole 'nother can of worms). I have to keep them up to date, which is inconvenient when the person who knows what I'm supposed to do it out of the office for the day. They've finally learned to some extent to ask me about ETA's so that they can plan properly.

This boils down to the idea that "there can only be communication between equals." The example is easy to illustrate in Japanese customs, but I'm sure we've all had the same problems back home as well in whatever our native language. So younger types (that includes me), don't be afraid to ask questions when you don't have a clue because you think you're taking too much of their time or don't want to look like a fool (a related problem).

Too little tact makes people defensive and angry. It's not their fault! Too much tact makes people overly cautious and untalkative. It's not a stupid question! I think by far our worst problem on perlmonks is a lack of tact rather than too much, but in the workplace the problem is often the opposite.


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(OT) Re: Re: On using tact
by Trimbach (Curate) on Feb 27, 2001 at 10:26 UTC
    I totally understand where you're coming from re: Japanese and the excessive use of tact from a Western perspective.

    When I lived in Japan I did not speak Japanese, although I knew some basic phrases and polite words and such. Only problem was, the more effort I put into being polite, the more the Japanese I encountered were polite right back, so much so that after a long string of "politeness" my vocabulary was quickly exhausted and I didn't know what else to say. It made things a little awkward for me because I didn't know how to extricate myself from the situation. I quickly learned to never, ever try to out-polite a Japanese. You'll lose every time. :-D

    Gary Blackburn
    Trained Killer

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