Learn From the President! Vol. 9 – Speaking So That Others Empathize

(Itoi) I’ve spoken with a lot of different people, but you’d probably be in the top ten Mr. Iwata……What’s interesting about you is not only do you think about things so logically, but you also really demand a lot of persuasive nonsense don’t you?

(Iwata) (Laughs)

(Itoi) Both in making games and in conversations throughout the world. And then when you were seriously searching for answers to problems right before your eyes as well. Whenever I see you Mr. Iwata, it’s almost as though you’re patiently waiting and saying to me “Alright, it doesn’t matter if it’s a lie, but it’s time for me to say something that will make you think ‘I see!'”.

(Iwata) Yeah, that’s true.

(Itoi) That’s why I can sometimes only say “I don’t know if you’re right or not, but it certainly is fascinating”. And then once you decide it’s correct Mr. Iwata, you begin re-forming another hypothesis. That’s what you spend your days doing.

(Iwata) Yeah, that’s right.

(Itoi) And there are times afterward when you think “That wasn’t quite correct, was it” about some of things we talked about. Then you’re able to rethink things with “If I would have added this in, that conversation would have been more interesting”. You could say that you choose “bounty” over searching for the correct answer……You choose as though you’re drawing lots for the thought that strings the most interesting things together. And in that way, we have completely different personalities, don’t we Mr. Iwata?

(Iwata) They’re very different, that’s true.

(Itoi) That way I’m able to clearly see qualities that I don’t have. So I can feel relieved that it isn’t necessary to force my own character on the person I’m talking to when wondering what will change during the course of conversation. Instead of laughing back and forth with someone who says something strange by saying “I’m strange too” back at them, it’s closer to having a conversation like “I wonder what will happen if we put that in this box”.

(Iwata) As expected, the things that you say Mr. Itoi are expressions that I definitely don’t make, and points of view that I definitely don’t have. So balls that I don’t anticipate always come my way……But you throw balls that I can catch.

(Itoi) I’m throwing ones that you can catch, at least for now.

(Iwata) I haven’t dropped one yet. But when a type of ball comes that I haven’t caught before, I can’t help but find it interesting.

(Itoi) Just like in high school when you only had a single customer Mr. Iwata, because we have fun together sometimes there are things to talk about. It feels so fascinating when you say “I remembered this thing”. Our conversations continuously flow back and forth with “Looking at it from your perspective, this is how things are?”, and because of that it’s like you’re able to see what my throwing arm is doing from the beginning……Of course you and I have a different flow of conversation than others do Mr. Iwata, but among the two of us I always feel like I am the one searching for a tool I can use. I have plenty of tools I can use because I’ve met you.

(Iwata) I feel that I probably use plenty of expressions and words born from our conversations that at this point feel like I’ve come up with them myself (Laughs)

(Itoi) It’s not as though I don’t ever meet other people who use computers, but when I think about what makes them different from you Mr. Iwata……It ends up being, as I said before, you have a strong sense of “correctness”.

(Iwata) In terms of responsibility?

(Itoi) Maybe I should say “happiness” instead of “correctness”.

(Iwata) Yes, I like making people happy far more than I like being correct.

(Itoi) You do, don’t you?!……So, what you would call an “elegant solution” in mathematics and “people being happy” are somewhat overlapping concepts, aren’t they?

(Iwata) They are. But within my personal values, “the people around me are happy” or “the people around me seem happy” are very near the top.

(Itoi) That’s true, isn’t it.

(Iwata) There are points when I say “I’ll do anything to achieve that!”

(Itoi) Yeah. It’s like someone that correctly points out “you may be wrong” not having any friends, right?

(Iwata) That would be because that person wasn’t saying it in a way that people can empathize with and accept it. When you know someone is wrong, there’s no meaning in it if you don’t convey it in a way that that person can accept it, understand it and empathize with it……You know, there are a lot of people who say things that are correct, which means a lot of people butt heads. Both parties have good intentions, which is why it’s obnoxious. After all, with good intentions you have nothing to hide. Recognizing the other party’s position negates your own values and so you’re unable to concede your point. But in those cases the feeling of wondering “Why don’t they accept my message?” is not something that a person who says the correct thing even feels.

(Itoi) It’s like both parties saying “Obey the will of god!” to each other.

(Iwata) Right, even though they’re of different religions.

(Itoi) They each envision a different god in their heads. So in quarreling over what’s right, it’s like a religious war right?

(Iwata) Exactly. That’s why when you establish communication, where should I compromise in order to gain this person’s understanding and empathy.

(Itoi) You say compromise, which means making sure both sides get through, right?

(Iwata) Yes. That’s right.

(Itoi) The hint that you understand “when you establish communication” says to me you probably thought “Even though a person should understand, they’re thinking all these different sorts of things?” when you became president, and met with everyone one-by-one, right?

(Iwata) My understanding of that was just beginning to deepen back then. I think I understand it a bit now. The interview itself doesn’t actually solve anything. Back then the meeting was the start, and once the company had gone bankrupt, the point in saying “The company is going to be in trouble if we don’t make such and such by tomorrow” was gone. In other words, we were granted a moratorium in some ways. “When you’re late at a truly awful time, if you’re going to be 30 minutes late and you don’t say you’ll be arriving 30 minutes late, you’re saying you’ll be 2 hours late” When you helped me by telling me that long ago, Mr. Itoi, I thought “Oh, I see!”, and I haven’t forgotten it ever since……

(Itoi) (Laughs) I learned that from someone else too.

(Iwata) The company’s moratorium was the same way. We were having a hard time and the “If we don’t finish this up, we’ll be in trouble” state of barely keeping afloat was just continuing on. However when we’d have a setback and had quality time to spend on it…we were able to do things that we couldn’t do previously. For me the thing that I wasn’t able to do previously was interact with everyone. Through doing that I made a ton of discoveries, and I realized that in reality this was an incredibly high priority. So even when I was busy from that point on, I never stopped doing it.

(Itoi) That really was a big discovery, wasn’t it?

(Iwata) Yeah.