The Art of Listening


Brian Covert

The Japanese people generally have a lot to say; they just want someone to listen to them.


That was a thought passed on to me recently by a friend from Japan, in discussing international relations between the Land of the Free and the Land of the Rising Sun.

Some Americans are so busy talking, he remarked objectively, that they haven’t learned how to listen. The Japanese respect good listeners.

I had a chance Monday to challenge the validity of that theory during a reception at the Fresno Airport Piccadilly Inn. Sanger city officials were throwing a type of “welcome party” for Japanese bigwigs who arrived here to begin studies for a proposed waste-to-energy plant based right in our own backyard.

During the reception, I kept remembering my friend’s saying about the Japanese and good listeners. So, I did what any other red-blooded American would do: I shut my mouth for a few minutes and lent an ear.

The results were worth it. The engineers, architect and accountant I talked to were friendly and had a lot to say; they were quite impressed with Sanger and its surrounding rural areas.

What impressed
me most as I watched West and East commingle among the crowd was the interaction between cultures. Sure, the Japanese are here on business and all that, but it was great to watch people from both sides of the Pacific Rim making an effort to communicate.

One Japanese gentleman was even conversing in Spanish to a local city official!

I remember Chikashi Yamamoto, an architect from Tokyo and graduate from the Illinois Institute of Technology, telling me about how cold it was in Chicago (the “hawk,” as the biting cold is referred to on the East Coast).

I told him that’s one of the benefits of living on the sun-drenched West Coast. I guess I forgot to mention that phenomenon we know as the treacherous Tule fog.

After the evening was over, I came to the conclusion that my friend’s theory about listening was on the mark. The Japanese, traditionally portrayed in Western culture as shy, obedient, house servant-types, were quite talkative, intellectual and had a great sense of humor.

They exude a lot of warmth in their pride and they enjoy good listeners — a lesson I learned by being just that.

So…it seems appropriate right here to extend, on behalf of the
Sanger Herald, a sincere welcome to the Japanese officials now visiting the city: We hope your stay here while on business is a memorable one.

Sanger may have the fog, but it was paradise compared to some of the recent flood-ravaged areas up north.

During a visit last weekend to West Sacramento, I noticed the remains left by recent rains that flooded areas around Sacramento and threatened to engulf others.

A road running along the American River near Roseville was still closed pending cleanup and the dropping of the river’s water level.

And although Interstate 5 south from Sacramento was cleared, workers still hadn’t adjusted freeway signs to indicate that.

At one point, I’m told, portions of the Sacramento River were ready to go. During the height of the storms, the [Gould] family I was visiting had taken earlier precautions and evacuated when a nearby delta began bulging at the seams. But the rain subsided before any major damage was done.

My trip wasn’t all disaster-related, however. I got a chance to drop by Old Sac while I was there — a place I never miss visiting when I’m in the area. The ever-popular Roseville Auction was another stop.

Next winter, I’ll have to look into saving some gas by taking a boat up to Sacramento.