During the last three days, many people commemorated the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Legend says that after Hiroshima was bombed, the U.S. demanded surrender and the Japanese leadership responded that “we’ll think about it.” Cultural experts interpreted the message to mean “we refuse.” That was a valid interpretation, based on Japanese culture, and because the Japanese government assured the media they would vigorously continue fighting.
Another valid interpretation could have been “we Japanese don’t make decisions without extensive group consultation and eventual agreement, so we need some time to process this.”
The U.S. chose the first interpretation, and bombed Nagasaki three days later, before bad weather could prevent another strike (and before the Japanese military could respond.) A bunch of more people died.
The atomic bombings certainly saved Japanese lives, with some estimates reaching as high as 10 million. An elderly Japanese man once thanked me for the bombings. He thought they saved the lives of millions of Japanese, and tens of millions of Asians on the continent who would have died of starvation as the military government refused to surrender. (As the event occurred over 20 years before my birth, I deserve neither gratitude nor censure.) But could those lives have been saved by one bombing instead of two? Was the bombing of Nagasaki necessary?
What if Truman had understood the situation better? What if Roosevelt had originally tried to understand the situation? What if the Japanese army and navy would have tried to understand each other better?
All of us want to be understood, but don’t first understand others. Sometimes we try, but we don’t know how.
The consequences are sometimes global. Sometimes it only affects your career or friendships.
A few years ago, I designed a course for an international business school that helped managers to better understand others. Over the past few months, I turned the course into an easy-to-read book, available on Amazon, beginning today. I believe it will enrich your life. Click on the cover below to see it: