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I think this is really spot on. When my startup in 1997 started selling things to a Japanese partner one of our investors remarked that 'we will consider it' was Japanese for 'no' and 'we will seriously consider it' was Japanese for 'as long as I draw breath this won't happen.' But navigating that positive based feedback could be very useful. Discussions in hypotheticals become more common and with our partner a very popular technique for providing negative feedback was to discuss this other person they were working with who was having issues (sort of like telling the doctor your "friend" has these symptoms but is too shy to come in and talk about them.) By keeping the conversation very firmly and plausibly directed elsewhere, the downsides were mitigated.

That investor was spot on. The best signal you can get from a Japanese business partner is their eagerness to go out for a night on the town :)

In Japanese, "We will consider it" or "kentou shimasu" (検討します) literally means to investigate and attack from its Chinese roots and is a way to signal distance.

If you are in early stage talks and if they are serious you will get a request to sign an NDA or some form of binding contract.

I think that's great advice and great way of giving feedback.

I'm actually not sure how to apply that advice in real world situations. Giving negative feedback usually triggers aggression, and group reprisal, while switching to "hypotheticals" and "friends" makes it sound as if i'm talking down to them, which also triggers aggression and group reprisal. So, I normally look for the socially anonymous outlet for my opinion, like downmoding the "me too" and "thanks" comments, and then move on with my life. Because, while the comments are not hateful or disruptive, they don't add anything to a discussion.

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