October 19, 2014

It would be interesting to measure the economic effect of bluntness. I would imagine that two people who are both naturally blunt conducting business together is more efficient than two people who are sensitive about each other’s feelings.  For the latter group, it is more time-consuming to negotiate anything. The idea would be to measure how long it takes for these two groups to negotiate contracts and get something done.

In Game Theory (I read somewhere), trusting a stranger by default is a more efficient way to succeed, but the caveat is that this is true only in a community of similarly trusting people. The trust-by-default strategy doesn’t work in a community where the majority distrust one another by default.

I think the same would hold true with bluntness; it would work only in a community of people who mutually respect/value bluntness. (The startup community is very much like this where they are constantly trying to circumvent people’s tendencies to lie to protect feelings in order to get at the truth about the market and their own ideas.)

I also heard that someone actually measured how long it takes to compose a typical business letter in Japanese versus English, and showed that it takes significantly more time to do so in Japanese (although this was before the advancement in character input technologies). This means the Japanese are inherently handicapped by their own language. If it takes 1.5 times longer, it literally means it costs 1.5 time more money to get the same task done just because of the inefficiency of the language. Collectively, it’s a massive amount of money being wasted for it.

I also think that women are handicapped in a similar way because they have been socialized to be more sensitive to other people’s feelings. When a woman is blunt, our society tends to see her as acting like a man.