Understanding the Inner and Outer Self

 Japan and India-Personal Branding from Two Angles


Peter Sterlacci-The Japanese Angle


The Secret to Understanding the Japanese Personal Brand 

When I was first introduced to personal branding I learned two things. First, everyone has a personal brand whether we realize it or not. Second, our brands are based on how others perceive us or as William Arruda says, they are "held in the hearts and minds of others." I also discovered that strong brands are based in authenticity and only by being true and genuine can we truly differentiate ourselves and deliver on our unique promise of value. 



The Outer and Inner Self in Japan 

Authentic, true, and genuine. While these words are at the core of any personal branding process they present a very interesting challenge in accurately understanding personal brands in Japan. 

For the Japanese, there are two mindsets called 'tatemae' (建前) and 'honne' (本音). 

Tatemae, literally meaning 'facade,' is the public or outer self. It is essentially what is expected by society and is based on position and circumstance. Tatemae, therefore, generally does not match one's honne, meaning one's true and genuine private or inner self. Honne is typically shown only around family and very close friends, or in neutral and informal circumstances. 

Having a public and private self is not unique to Japan. Social psychologists say that people are naturally either private-self dominant or public-self dominant. We don't necessarily fit into one group and we all have public and private elements to our personalities. 

The key difference in Japan is the role this duality plays in maintaining harmony at whatever the cost. There is a far more conscious effort to display an outward appearance or 'image' that can be contrary to one's true and genuine nature simply for the sake of avoiding confrontation and not hurting anyone's feelings within the group. Japanese are by nature self-effacing and therefore put the needs of the group ahead of their own interest. Tatemae is one of the mechanisms to reinforce this self-effacing characteristic. 


Personal Brands and 'Red' Faces 

Interestingly, once Japanese remove themselves from the context of work or formal settings and communicate 'after hours', the barriers to expressing honne comes down. Therefore, it is generally expected for colleagues to express their private self over food and drinks after work. This is called "nomunication" - a bilingual coinage combining the Japanese word 'nomu' - to drink - with 'communication.' Perhaps, a flushed red face in Japan is not only a sign of being tipsy, but also of the Japanese personal brand actually revealing itself! 

Is the lesson here that we need to go out for after work to truly tap into the Japanese personal brand? ABSOLUTELY! (Disclaimer: But it does mean you have to get drunk!) 

I often have non-Japanese who first relocate to Japan ask me how can they really get to know their Japanese colleagues and friends? And I always reply by asking how many times have they gone out after work. Even if you do not drink alcohol the simple act of being in a neutral place after hours will allow you to see the genuine and authentic side of the Japanese personality. 

An important caveat, however, is "what happens after-hours stays after-hours." The Japanese honne expressed over drinks will go right back to tatemae the next day at work. There is basically an unwritten rule that you never reveal the honne that was expressed the evening before, again for the purpose of maintaining harmony, and saving face. 

Otherwise, the red face you will experience now will be one of embarrassment! 
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Brief Profile
Peter Sterlacci has handled many senior roles including Director-International Outreach at San Jose State University and corporate training before venturing out into Personal Branding in Japan. He specialises in Intercultural Personal Branding and his philosophy is "Empowering you to Believe, Become and Be your Brand" 

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Dr Amit Nagpal, The Indian angle

Indian has always been the land where people have come from all parts of the world to discover their inner self and to take the inner journeys.

Though majority of the Indian population has forgotten its rich heritage in the day to day struggles typical of a developing nation, the time is not far when India will lead the world again in the search for inner self and authenticity.




Presentations and Intentions 

When dealing with people, presentation is important, where outer self has a critical role to play.

When dealing with God intentions and authenticity are important, where inner self has a critical role to play. 





So here is a short poem, “The Inner and the Outer” 

"The inner self needs expression,

But the outer self results from suppression.

The inner self wants personal branding,

But the outer needs image management.

The inner self is the truth,

Yet the outer is the facade.

The inner self has pure intentions,

But the outer is a result of presentations.

The inner wants to be authentic,

Yet the outer is rather dramatic.

The inner self is the core, the soul,

And the outer is just the surface, the mind.

It is only in the race to bridge the gap,

between inner and outer;

                           it seems the humanity is “Down and Out”. 


Human Evolution and Authenticity 

In my opinion the society is moving towards more and more authenticity which means the difference between inner and outer self becomes lesser. Since the human intelligence will also increase in future and we will have less dependence upon perception and a stronger intuition, it will automatically result in higher authenticity (and lower gap between inner and outer self). As the individual becomes more intelligent and wise, it will make more sense to move towards individualism. 


High context vs Low context cultures 

Eastern cultures are high context cultures (people may not mean what they say) while western cultures are low context cultures. The interests of the group/organisation supersede over the individual interests in the east while western cultures tend to be more individualistic. The context factor increases the gap between the inner and outer self though.



Let us find our own answers 

The search for inner peace and integrity requires alignment of the inner self with the outer. But a complex topic it is and raises lot of questions. Is it necessary to have two selves? Can we be truly authentic with true selves? How do we align inner self with outer self so that we have integrity? Will it be possible to completely merge inner self with outer self as society evolves? These are some important questions to which we have to find our own answers.

I believe our individual answers will come from our own inner voice because, "The mind is a question bank, the soul is an answer guide."
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Brief Profile
Dr Amit Nagpal is a Personal Branding Consultant & Deepest Passion Coach. He is based in New Delhi, India and specializes in personal branding with a holistic touch. His philosophy is, "Enlarge as a Human Being, Excel as a Social Media Being and Evolve as a Personal Brand"

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