What Yes Means for a Filipino?

Yes is perhaps one of the most commonly-used words in a language. It is simply a sign of affirmation, and the direct opposite of negation. In most cultures, yes means simply what it means superficially. There is no incongruence between the content and context of the word yes. However, in the Filipino society, yes means a lot of things. What is said does not necessarily what is meant or desired by the speaker. There exists layers of interpretation that needs to be unveiled before the real meaning of yes is ascertained. Here are the most common meanings of yes among Filipinos.

It is a real positive answer.

Ofcourse, a yes is a yes. No one could interpret it in another way. Make sure that the Filipino concerned has no opportunity later to change his or her mind. Filipinos believe on finality of decisions, after several reconsiderations. Filipinos believe not just second chance or last chance, but multiple chances. Yes for Filipinos maybe perceived as a goal than a mere answer. For example, a Filipino will not give up not until he or she gets a yes as an answer. However, ask a Filipino, if he or she answers yes and the consequences of possibly changing his or her mind later is significant, so a yes really means yes. On the contrary, if there is insignificant effects of a yes and there is still an opportunity to say no later, so a yes is a yes today, but may change tomorrow.

The message is maybe partially-understood.

This is quite typical Filipino. Ask a Filipino whether he or she understood an instruction or message well, then the Filipino will answer yes. That is an attempt for Filipinos to avoid further delays. The problem is that seldom the task is not really fully-understood. Worse, Filipinos will not ask help later, but will figure out the solution to the problem alone. The problem is that most of the time the problem gets worse by not asking help the first time the need arised. A Filipino would rather have a mentor, rather than a guide. A guide gives simply instructions but will allow the doer to do tasks independently, but what suits for a Filipino is a mentor, a person behaving like parent lavishly pouring time and effort throughout the implementation of a task to its completion. That mentor should not be so critical, but like an understanding mother capable of tolerating all kinds of mistakes and covering them, and hailing any small progress throughout the process.

The goal is to end conversation.

Filipinos are quite ironic. They talk excessively on things that does not concern them. They could give lengthy comments and opinions about others. But when it comes to themselves, as much as possible, everything is kept at a minimum. So when there is a conversation pertaining to themselves, a yes is an effective way to end a conversation. "Yes so that is it. The end. Period." Even there is a need to elaborate conversations to resolve conflicts, Filipinos would opt to end conversation. That is quite irresponsible or even childish, but this is simply common. In the first place, how would want to respond back to a person everything is okay. That is difficult. However, based on experience, ending a conversation is better, knowing there are still multitude of opportunities later to ask. Make conversations subtle, short and often, then Filipinos could no longer evade important discussions.

Some intentions and feelings maybe hidden.

Filipinos have learned to hide real intentions, opinions and feelings. Communication maybe softened to suit the situation. A yes maybe an expression of irritation, annoyance or even insecurity. Yes is not just varied by tone or inflections, but even with same tone, the real meaning maybr different from what is said. However, it may seem Filipinos are good coverts, but this is not necessarily true. Filipinos are used to hiding, so if one will be true and direct, the message will be interpreted in another way. That way Filipinos lose because they waste time and effort for deciphering the real message of a simple direct message. Moreover, since most Filipinos are good in hiding, when they speak with each other, misinterpretation happens so often, thus conflicts result thereafter.

It shows the difficulty of saying no.

Filipinos are naturally shy. By saying shy, this does not mean the literal shy, not having the confidence to speak out. There are Filipinos who are very articulate and expressivr, but still they are still shy when rejecting something or someone. A Filipino would either not hurt anybody, avoid taking responsibility and think of the possible consequences. Asking the Filipino one more time to confirm a yes literally means affirmative would not help either. There are some Filipinos who rather will experience discomfort, inconvenience even pain just to avoid negating something or someone. This is the reason why if you hear a Filipino saying no outrightly, then that person is one of the exceptions, rather than the rule.

This blogpost does not mean that all Filipinos make use of the same meanings at all times. Filipinos can very direct also but the diversity among the Filipino population based on ethnicity, language, and social class makes communication and comprehension more complex. For certain, these meanings are not just exclusive for Filipinos. It may also be utilized in other cultures as well. However, I as a Filipino could safely say that a Filipino yes may not be a full yes after all. Yes today, maybe no tomorrow or later. That is not good, but some are making good progress. That is often just how we Filipinos think.

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