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Respect others, Respect ourselves

When Shohei Otani addressed his teammates before the championship baseball game he exhorted them to respect American opponents while also respecting themselves. This psychological message was needed because some Japanese are intimidated or awed by Americans, giving them too much power and privilege. Americans and Japanese may act like Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe when Trump told Abe, "We're number one; you can be number two," and Abe was silent.

In my work in Japan the concept of assertive leadership, which Otani exhibits, is well received. Neither passively respecting only the other; nor aggressively respecting only oneself, an assertive style respects both the self and other. It begins by simply "seeing" the other as a fellow human being and forms the foundation of effective interpersonal communication and relationships.

Working in both countries I find that assertiveness is easy for Japanese in respect shown to others and easy for Americans in respect given to themselves, so neither has a cultural advantage. Because of the long history of U.S.-Japan relations, to become more assertive Japanese may need to focus more on self respect, while Americans may need to focus on respecting others. Assertiveness is an empowering idea in intercultural human relations that enables us to interact on a level playing field.

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