Tatemae: The Secret to Presenting More Confidently


If you study or experience Japanese culture, it’s only a matter of time before you come across the concept of tatemae, the feelings and attitude that one projects to the public. Tatemae may or may not conflict with one’s honne, or real feelings.

When it comes to public speaking, embrace tatemae. In other words, when you are teaching or presenting, you don’t need to be the same person that you are in your daily life. In fact, your usual personality could be hindering you at times when you need to display confidence and energy to engage or persuade an audience.

This doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with being reserved or passive in your daily life. However, just as successful businesses adapt to changing market conditions, public speakers need to adapt to their audiences.

The ability to flip on your tatemae switch will take time to develop. That being said, here are two concrete tips to get you started:

  1. Treat your presentations as performances: Draw inspiration from actors. They spend their working hours playing all kinds of different roles. Logic dictates that at least some (if not most) of those roles (tatemae) differ from the actors' core personalities (honne).
  2. Wear your passions on your sleeve: This is my personal favorite—a shortcut to making yourself a more confident and passionate public speaker. Talking about something you are knowledgeable and passionate about naturally reduces the distance between your tatemae and honne.

So, there you have it. Harnessing tatemae doesn't mean being insincere. Simply put, don’t be afraid to show another side of yourself for the sake of your audience.

A version of this article was originally published on LinkedIn.