S+ Stimulant: Ishin-denshin


Ishin-denshin (以心伝心?) originally comes from a Chinese proverb and is a Japanese idiom which denotes the traditional concept of interpersonal communication through unspoken mutual understanding.

This four-character compound, known as a yojijukugo, literally translates as “what the mind thinks, the heart transmits.” Sometimes explained in English in terms of “telepathy” or “sympathy”, ishin-denshin is also commonly rendered as “heart-to-heart communication” or “tacit understanding.”

Although silent understanding is generally recognized as a universal human phenomenon, the expression ishin-denshin is often used to describe this style of nonverbal communication between two people. Ishin-denshin is traditionally perceived by the Japanese as sincere, silent communication via the heart or belly (i.e. symbolically from the inside, uchi), as distinct from overt communication via the face and mouth (the outside, soto), which is seen as being more susceptible to insincerities. Such concepts are related to the traditions of Zen, where the term ishin-denshin refers to direct mind transmission.*

In the West we are familiar with the concept of having a ‘heart to heart talk’ but ‘Western need for clarity in interpersonal communication are often described as repellent by Japanese people who believe themselves more accustomed to ishin-denshin and implicit rather than explicit forms of understanding.’

Next time you get together with a friend, perhaps try dropping the ‘talk’ and simply have a ‘heart to heart.’ You might be surprised to find that without the hindrance of words, which are oft misunderstood anyway, your level of communication might be both deeper and clearer.



Published: April 22nd, 2014

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