Both Generation Z and former prime ministers… The atmosphere of a society that seeks an escape route with “I don’t know.
Afraid of being slammed… Former PM Kan’s “habit” has become a national phrase!
I don’ t know” is apparently all the rage.
It was ranked third in a Shibuya Trend Research survey of high school students for “words that are popular now,” and was also nominated for this year’s “You-Can New Words and Trendy Words Award.
Behind the “I don’t know,” there is a phrase that has been unnoticed by everyone from politicians to newscasters and athletes. It is “I think so.
In the past, former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s repetitive “I did so” and “I think so” at press conferences and other occasions were pointed out as a nasally habit, but the former prime minister also used “I think so” and “I think so” repeatedly.
Incidentally, the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe often used the phrase “I think it is so. This may also be a snide remark.
I don’t know if former Prime Minister Kan is the originator of this phrase, but before I know it, newscasters and athletes have begun to use it frequently in their comments.
Shigeru Kajiwara, a freelance announcer and author of several books, including “How to Speak without Irritating People” (Nikkei Business Jingbunko) and “Inappropriate Japanese” (Shincho Shinsho), points out that “˜I mean it like this’ is a vague phrase.
For example, if you clearly state, ‘This is a good thing’ or ‘This is a bad thing,’ your opinions and thoughts are clearly colored. I wonder if he started using ‘I think that way’ to avoid this. In principle, there is less opposition if you use ambiguous phrases. People who are in a position to be criticized afterwards tend to use long, ambiguous phrases.
In this respect, “I don’t know,” is graceful. If a politician were to use it, it would be amusing, but I am sure he or she would be criticized for it,” says Kajiwara.
I would like politicians to clearly say, “I don’t know, but I don’t take responsibility for it,” instead of escaping with “I don’t know.
Tatsushi Kawashima, a licensed psychologist who leads communication courses, explains, “The credibility of a statement changes depending on how it is used.
Tatsushi Kawashima, a licensed psychologist who teaches communication courses, explains, “The degree of trustworthiness of a statement depends on how it is worded. When you use the phrase, ‘I think so,’ you imply that the basis for the information is vague. It is not good for politicians and newscasters, who are in a position to accurately convey facts, to use it so frequently. From the standpoint of credibility, I think it is better to state, “This is what I think,” in a sharp and clear manner,” says Mr. Kawashima.
(Mr. Kawashima) “Yes, don’t put ‘I think’ or ‘I think’ in front of ‘I think’ or ‘I think’ to create an escape route.
We will not take any responsibility for it, so the rest is up to “self-determination…
By the way, “I don’t know,” which was nominated for the “Most Popular Words” award, is said to be a phrase Kansai people use at the end of conversations to avoid responsibility, but it is now also used outside of Kansai.
However, “I don’t know” seems to have several connotations, even if it is a single word for “avoiding responsibility. Mr. Kawashima analyzes it this way.
It is thought to have a double meaning: “I don’t take responsibility for what I say, and I don’t take responsibility for the other person’s actions upon hearing what I say. The phrase “I don’t know, but” indirectly expresses, “I’ve said it anyway, but I don’t take any responsibility for it, so please use your own judgment.
This phrase also has the effect of easing the stress of the speaker. For example, if a speaker tells a story with little basis, and the other party misinterprets it and suffers a disadvantage, the speaker becomes anxious that he or she will be put in a bad position. I believe that this sense of insecurity is being worked on by the conscious effort to relieve it by using the humorous phrase, ‘I don’t know,'” says Kawashima.
(Kawashima-san) I see. So, there is a hidden psychology behind the use of “I don’t know” at the end of a conversation.
There is a psychological theory called ‘politeness theory,’ which considers the degree of politeness and politeness in human relationships. People in the Kansai region generally have a low degree of politeness, so they tend to prefer rough and ready interactions. So I think they find ‘I don’t know’ amusing in the sense of a play on words.
However, if you use it in conversation with people from cultures with a high degree of politeness, who are concerned about the manner in which they use words, you may be perceived as a person who says random things that are not appropriate. The same is true for people with a low tolerance for ambiguity, who like to keep things black and white, and may be annoyed by the fact that one word, ‘I don’t know,’ can obscure what has been said before,” says Kawashima.
What? What was that 5 minutes we spent conversing…
They are irresponsible to say something as if they know something and then run away at the end by saying, ‘I don’t know. I am listening intently, but if you end the conversation with that one statement, I feel as if I am being treated like an idiot. What, you don’t know? What was that five minutes of conversation about? I can’t help but feel bitter that such words are generalized,” said Mr. Kajiwara.
Although he says so, Mr. Kajiwara does not necessarily reject “I don’t know,” outright.
Traditionally, Japanese people don’t like to show their intelligence. They don’t want people to think they know things or look smart.
What if you talk about something difficult or use witty words and add “I don’t know” at the end? I think it dispels the sense of pomposity and puts the speaker and listener on the same footing. I think “I don’t know” is an excellent way to balance things out.
However, as a Kanto person, the phrase ‘I don’t know’ itself sounds pompous to me, and I am a bit miffed (laughs).
I don’t know” can be used to avoid responsibility and to avoid being seen as pompous. In any case, “I don’t know” is undoubtedly useful as a way to escape or as a precautionary tactic.
Kawashima points out that both “I don’t know,” and “I think that’s the way it is,” are used to avoid responsibility.
Nowadays, people are being slammed on social networking sites for the slightest comment, so they may be afraid to use definitive statements in public, and this may lead to a desire to use ambiguous words. By avoiding definitive statements and blurring out what they say, I think people are defending themselves,” says Kawashima.
It is difficult to clearly express one’s own opinions and thoughts–“to be so” and “I don’t know” may be phrases that naturally arise from this kind of social atmosphere. I don’t know.
Shigeru Kajiwara, freelance announcer and visiting professor at Tokyo Seitoku University’s Faculty of Applied Psychology, was born in Kanagawa in 1950. After graduating from the School of Law at Waseda University, he joined Bunka Hoso as an announcer. At the age of 49, she entered the Graduate School of Psychology at Tokyo Seitoku University, where she received her Master’s degree in Psychology. He is the author of many books, including “How to Talk without Irritating People” (Nikkei Business Jingbunko) and “Enjoying Socializing without Pressure” (Sanbanmeisha).
Tatsushi Kawashima is a licensed psychologist and mental health worker. In 2006, he established Direct Communication Inc. He has been teaching communication courses mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area. He is the author of “How can I have a nice chat with you after all?
Interview and text by： Sayuri Saito