Understanding others starts with them having understanding and empathy for you


Maybe you’ve experienced a fleeting sense of worry as to whether you are sufficiently communicating your thoughts and feelings. Through his successes and failures in situations such as communicating with exchange students, seminar presentations, and long-term internships, Taiki Imai has learned the importance of understanding others. Through his student life, you might find hints for resolving such worries.

Taiki Imai Fourth-year student, Department of Business Administration, Faculty of EconomicsBeing influenced by his grandfather, who runs a steel company, Taiki Imai entered the Business Administration Department with the aim of starting his own business in the future. He became keenly interested in international exchange by becoming friends with a Taiwanese student he met by chance in his third year of high school, and in his first year of university he received an Excellence in Writing Award at the 16th Japan–Taiwan Cultural Exchange Youth Scholarship. When visiting the government of Taipei, he paid a courtesy call on then-Vice President Chen Chien-jen. He is enrolled in Yukihiro Hamaguchi’s seminar in the Department of Business Administration. His favorite word is “synchronicity.”

Wanting to know more, and to talk more

In April of my second year of high school, around thirty Taiwanese students visited Japan as part of a cultural exchange event. The goal of this event was to introduce and understand each other’s culture, but I was surprised at the extent to which the Taiwanese students already knew about Japanese culture, everything from our cuisine and social events to manga like Case Closed and One Piece and other subcultural artifacts. I, on the other hand, knew nearly nothing about Taiwan. I knew from books and the Internet that there were many Japanophiles in Taiwan, but this was the first time I had encountered them first-hand. I still remember both my initial surprise and the deep interest I felt.

Wanting to know more about Taiwan, and to talk more with Taiwanese people, I wanted to put myself in an environment that allowed international exchange. That was my motivation for living from spring of my first year in “MISH,” the dormitory that allows Meiji Gakuin University students to live with international exchange students. Communication was generally a combination of broken English and body language, but even so, it felt wonderful to be able to express my feelings and thoughts. I had no confidence in my foreign language ability, but any such worries were outweighed by joy and fun. Anyway, I spent a wonderful year and a half there, creating unforgettable memories such as welcome parties for incoming students and bingo tournaments with international students from countries including South Korea, China, America, and Viet Nam. The simple but important lesson I learned through a year and a half of living there was that if there’s something I want to do, I should go ahead and give it a shot.

The most important thing is empathy

There is one other thing I learned through the experience of living with international exchange students: the importance of empathy for others’ feelings. Feelings like wanting to talk more and make the people I communicated with happier were the driving force for my interaction with international students, and made up for my lack of knowledge (particularly language ability). The seminar I enrolled in during my third year provided the opportunity for reconfirming this awareness. This seminar primarily focuses on business strategies and artificial intelligence, but under the theme of “new business creation,” I also made a presentation on “the potential for vertical farming in Japan” from the perspective of deepening understanding of corporate management strategies and new businesses. “Vertical farming” refers to farming in high-rise buildings or on very steep slopes, which I thought might make it applicable to Japanese urban areas with high population densities. Based on our own proposals, we seminar students perform market and company research to make presentations of our ideas under frameworks of SWOT analysis, etc. Thanks to having many such opportunities, my presentation went well, and I was able to gain confidence in my abilities.

When giving presentations on a certain topic, however, I sometimes felt as if I wasn’t expressing my thoughts well. Seeing the faces of my fellow seminar students during online presentations, I saw expressions of “I understand what you’re saying, but still…” I felt like the reasoning for my ideas was sound, but there was still this sense of something being off. After fretting over this for some time, I recalled the smiles the international students made when I was able to express myself. Just because you think you’ve made your point, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have. What I realized was that I had forgotten to sympathize with the feelings of who I was speaking to. In the end, I became able to feel that I was getting my feelings across by adding questions to my presentations, such as “Have you heard of this issue?”, “What do you think of this proposal?”, and “Is there anything you’re unsure of in my presentation so far?” So one of the most important things I learned in this seminar was that understanding others starts with them having understanding and empathy for you.

Worrying, thinking, and acting

An example of an activity that allowed me to apply my seminar experience was a long-term internship that lasted until April of my fourth year, at an event management company. As a corporate customer manager, I was engaged in proposal sales for businesses that might wish to open booths in the workshop space of a certain facility. At my busiest times I had from seventy to eighty appointments per month, but in the first couple of months after I’d started, I had no appointments at all. I managed to secure one appointment in my third month, but that was with a company that had previously hosted a workshop, unlike all the companies I had previously tried to make appointments with. To compare what I was doing with a conversation, it’s as if I was talking to someone I’d never met about something they knew nothing about. It took a while, but my seminar experience allowed me to see what I was doing wrong. Once I realized that, I was able to get increasingly many appointments, which led to contracts and companies hosting workshops. When speaking with customers, I never used jargon, even if I expected them to understand what it would mean. I avoided being the only one speaking, pausing from time to time to confirm the customer’s feelings and opinions. I also made sure to do the same in the period from signing the contract to hosting of the event.

On the day of the event, hundreds of our customers came to the site, and the mass media was present to cover it. I remember seeing children having fun participating in the workshops, getting a little help from their fathers. This feeling of accomplishment I got from worrying, thinking, and acting definitely led to my own personal growth.

Heading at full power toward graduation

I’ve had many varied experiences, including meeting with Taiwanese exchange students, the year and a half I spent at MISH, and my seminar internship, but my student life was one in which each led to awareness and learning. At the same time, I learned that the deeper my knowledge and experience of logical thinking, the more important are thoughts and feelings for understanding who I am communicating with. For the remainder of my student life, I will value understanding others, do everything I want to do, and graduate with a smile and no regrets.