In Japan, they give importance to others' feelings than voicing their thoughts or opinions. They have the phrase Kuuki wo Yomu (to read the air): they see to it to be mindful of others before they say something, hence they have a harmonious community.
This is something that Nick Kemp learnt in Japan: the importance of holding back and being considerate of others.
Can you read the air?
In the West, we have a belief that we have the right to say what we want, when we want, where we want, to whom we want. This is an important right or freedom that we should often exercise. Yet, we don’t always have to.
We can consider the feelings or needs of others and hold back. This is something I learnt in Japan: that we don’t always have to say what we want and we can actually consider the feelings of others before we say something.
An idiomatic expression that encapsulates this idea is: Kuuki wo Yomu which means to read the air. Kuuki means air and Yomu means read. So what it means is to think deeply about the needs or feelings of others before you say something.
So it’s holding back. And it highlights two things, I think. When we say something it often equates to our sense of self-importance: that we want to express ourselves because it’s important or we feel we’re important.
Then this idea of holding back probably highlights your putting people other than yourself in a position of consideration or importance. So the challenge of this is finding a balance.
What I have found is there’s a great advantage in saying less and when in doubt, you can always decide to hold back. The benefit of this is very powerful because often words can be quite hurtful and they can cause a lot of damage.
Often you may end up saying the one thing that they don’t want to hear. I think we’re all looking for an agreement – some form of agreement, acknowledgment, or to be understood.
So if you do read the air and you read the feelings, thoughts – anticipate the thoughts or feelings of others, and you know that you don’t share the same opinion or the same feelings, you can hold back for the greater good of others.
So how about from time to time you practice this concept of “reading the air” for the good of others and save your freedom and right to express yourself on those occasions where it really matter.
Read the air – Kuuki wo Yomu.