I wrote this back in 2010 and just found it in my email.
I love the idea of the Japanese verb ending ~masho, meaning “let’s~” such as “tabemasho” = “let’s eat”. As Peter from J-List said, “These statements subtly create a warm and fuzzy atmosphere of cooperation that make people want to do their part for the good of everyone, an important pillar of Japanese polite society.” (J-List side blog – Monday, August 23, 2010) It works very well for commands, giving them a softer edge. In English, you often see signs that give commands as what no to do, such as “no smoking” or “don’t walk on the grass”. It almost gives you an immediate feeling of wanting to break the rule just because you were told not to, an F-U to authority. But in Japan, “let’s not smoke” has more of the idea of everyone working together so as not to upset everyone else. If the sign in English read “we don’t want to smoke because it might upset those around you”… or something…. I would be more likely to want to not do said behaviour. (And I don’t even smoke anyway!)
When I was training for management in retail, I was told that you will get more of a positive outcome as well as respect if you add yourself into a request, such as “we need to be more aware of customers” when you yourself are already aware but the person you are addressing is the one who needs to work on it. It makes the person feel more like the member of a team and not just a subordinate. In staff meetings, we would actually use let’s frequently, as in “let’s work together in keeping the shelves tidy”. It works very well for employees and also for children. If only the west would adopt the feeling of working together as a whole society instead of the ‘everyone for themselves’ type of thinking. I think it would just be a nicer place to live~
(originally posted to Japan – Here I Come!)