Achieving consensus through professionalized head nods: The role of nodding in service encounters in Japan

Authors: Oshima, S.

Journal: International Journal of Business Communication

Volume: 51

Issue: 1

Pages: 31-57

Publisher: Sage

ISSN: 2329-4884

DOI: 10.1177/2329488413516207

While the interactional functions of head nodding in everyday Japanese conversation have been frequently studied, a discourse on head nodding as a professional communicative practice has yet to be explored. With the method of multimodal conversation analysis, the current study examines the role of nodding in a particular professional-client setting, namely, hair salon interactions. My interest specifically lies in the frequent occurrence of synchronized head nods during the “service-assessment sequence,” where both service provider and customer inspect and determine whether the completed work is adequate. I pursue mechanisms of synchronized head nods by revealing exactly how participants collaborate in producing a nod, and how their verbal actions may at times be designed accordingly. In doing so, the study provides insight into what consensus may look like at service encounters in Japan, and discusses how such nodding practices may contribute to a satisfactory closure of a business negotiation.

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