Friday, 10 October 2008

T. Ben Tanaka, a Master of Communication

According to the Cheng-Chu tradition, human nature can be discussed in terms of its two names, original nature and physical nature. Cheng I and Chu Hsi explained the former with respect to li and the latter as its physical endowment conditions by ki. Chang Tsai discussed the latter in terms of the transformation of ki as a way of self-cultivation. Interpreting the early classics and his senior Neo-Confucians including Chang Tsai, Chu Hsi argued that the original human nature and physical human nature are not two separate natures with their own ontological grounds. Rather they are just two different names or concepts referring to the two realms of one natures. The physical human nature is neither different nor separate from the original human nature; more to the point, ‘the latter runs through the former.’ For this reason, Chu Hsi said: ‘The nature of all human beings is good; however, some people are born with different characteristics. This is due to difference in the physical endowment of ki.’ From this ontological point of view, the objective of learning is to transform one’s physical endowment through communicating with one’s original nature of human and this is where the basic idea of ‘Power Communication’ comes from.
Mr. T. Ben Tanaka, a managing director of Pasona Europe, which is specialised in offering a wide range of multi-lingual human resource solutions to Europe, is known for a master of consulting multinational blue-chip companies by building on effective communication system into the global network. With more than 30 years’ of experience as an executive officer in several different industries, Tanaka has developed and lectured his own unique communication systems called ‘Power Communication Skills’. According to Tanaka, intercultural encounters are as old as humanity itself; they occurred as soon as two different tribes of human met. Intercultural contact does not automatically breed mutual understanding. Rather it confirms the groups involved in their own identities and prejudices. Intercultural encounters that forcibly expose individuals or groups to an alien cultural environment can be a source of heavy stress. Lack of adaptation to alien cultural environments is not only a problem for individuals; it exposes organisations to communication breakdowns, loss of effectiveness, and sometimes complete failure. The nature of adaptation problems depends on both the sending and receiving culture in their communication systems.
In his theory, although language is the most clearly recognisable part of culture and the part that has lent itself most readily to communication building, however, language is not a neutral vehicle. Our thinking is affected by the categories and words available in our language. This has been recognised at least since Von Humboldt; Sapir and Whorf in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s stated in various ways what has become known as the ‘Whorfian Hypothesis’. Tanaka argues that words amounts for only 7% of the entire communication process. The remaining 93% consists of non-verbal elements: facial expression, gesture and tone of voice. For him visualisation is a way of looking at the world, perceiving its fundamental realities, that probably originates with the Buddha and generally inspires Eastern philosophy. Words throw out sense; thus our senses, which are in touch with reality, are replaced by words that have nothing to do with reality.
Tanaka calls words a primitive language, not even having the same structure as reality; only mathematics has the same structure as reality. However, even ‘mathematics’ is not wholly accurate (Albert Einstein once said: ‘As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are uncertain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality’). The human mind, as Freud famously put it, is like the iceberg: mostly submerged, with only a small portion appearing above the waterline. The ‘submerged area’ of the iceberg that is the mind is very hard to access and, as a result, has often been neglected both by philosophers and educators as a basis of communication skills.
Tanaka points out that most people recognise objects, they do not ‘sense’ them, thus their thinking is done below the line at the verbal level. As with senses, visualisation gives the mind direct contact with reality, which is structural, therefore visualisable; visualisation creates images and also mirrors reality so its pictures are of real things. Just as with nature, we sense it, allowing it to speak – we do not impose our truly limited knowledge upon it. Human beings must be treated in the same way. Love and its fading is caused by a change from an emotional and sense relationship to a verbal and intellectual one, whereas animals never lose their owners’ affection because it is a sensing friendship, not an intellectual one. This is a knowledge that can give a large benefit in human relations.
Tanaka’s seminar focuses on awareness of and general knowledge about cultural differences. The knowledge and skills taught apply in any foreign cultural environment. This seminar should be essential for those persons who their work interact with a multitude of foreign cultures.

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