Sony boss shows confidence and concern during video address

[Edit - Correction added to correct Mr. Hirai's company title.]

Sony’s Executive Deputy President, Kazuo Hirai, showed confidence and a bit of concern during his video address announcing the re-launch of the PlayStation Network (PSN) this weekend. Only he didn’t express any of these emotions verbally, they were displayed in his hands and eyes as he talked.

You can usually tell a good deal about a person by watching their movements as they talk. According to experts, nearly 80-percent of human interaction is done via non-verbal communication. So when The Tech Herald first viewed Sony’s EDP on video this weekend, we noticed he was a bit stiff, and that his hands and eyes were constantly in motion. Yet, does this mean anything?

To find out, we spoke to one of the world’s most noted experts on non-verbal communication, Joe Navarro. In addition, we also consulted with cultural anthropologist Paul Draper. We asked them to watch the video dry, and offer their opinions with little to no information from our side of the table.

Navarro, who spent 25 years teaching agents at the FBI the art of non-verbal communication, first noted that this is a staged event. That isn’t a bad thing, but it is different than a typical forensic setting.

“Second the hand gestures are consistent with the message. They reflect that there have been issues, but there is confidence that [Sony has] corrected the issue… His eye behavior demonstrates gravity defying when he emphasizes, and that is to be expected. All in all, I think he is being forthright but again, this is a staged event.” Navarro said.

One area that did standout out for Navarro is when Hirai was talking about being secure in the future. “I think he himself realizes that no one can guarantee the future.”

Draper also made it clear to us that Hirai was reading a script, so the rehearsed nature of the video and the editing make it harder to analyze. “So we’re not seeing a natural individual, naturally expressing things,” he said.

When we spoke to Draper this morning via phone, he watched the video with us.

“Again, he is reading the script. This is not an individual. There are people in this room, that are filming him, that are having him do it in chunks purposefully, so that he can get each one right, but that’s just good PR.”

At about 35 seconds in to the video, the first non-verbal cue catches Draper’s attention. The gesture Hirai made when he talked about Sony’s efforts to bring the PSN back on line was giving. 

“Right now, it’s an issue that’s been heavy for him, and it’s going to be an issue that he doesn’t have to worry about anymore. So he does believe that this is solved,” Draper said. A few seconds later, when the first phase of the PSN re-launch is mentioned, Hirai is “visually relieved” about this progress. Later, when the video shifts to talk about the new security measures and the restoration of services, there were other visual markers.

“He knows that these facts are true, when he’s talking about how you change your password. So he’s very confident in telling us facts,” Draper explained, but added that Hirai appears worried that people are going to be “mad at him” when it comes to the validation process.

However, “He does believe that [the services] will be returned as soon as possible.”

Just over two minutes into the video, Hirai mentions that Sony worked with some of the most respected forensics and security experts in the computer industry. “He felt good about that statement after he said it,” Draper said.

Yet, a few seconds later, when he commented that protecting the information Sony’s customers has entrusted them with is their “top priority”, he is “worried you don’t believe him,” Draper added.

Towards the end of the video, Hirai uses his hands to hit each talking point as he makes them. The pointing and other movements are because he believes those points to be important, and he wants you to believe them as well, Draper explained.

“He genuinely believes that you're mad at him...he genuinely believes that this could happen to anybody...he genuinely believes that it’s going to get better...”

At the conclusion, Hirai’s address explains how the last few weeks have been “tough for all of us” and that Sony is doing everything they can to regain customer trust.

“He becomes most natural in the entire piece towards the end, when he talks about how difficult it was in solving this,” Draper concluded.

“I absolutely believe that it was difficult to solve and he didn’t want it to be as difficult as it was, and that’s where the most natural confidence and truth comes out. I truly believe he does want people to come back and rejoin.”

The video is embedded below. Feel free to comment and tell us what you see with regards to non-verbal communications.

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