Standing in Someone Else’s Shoes


Empathy  (from Psychology Today)

Empathy means being able to step into someone else’s shoes and then step out of them again.

What happens when we inhabit their shoes is supposed to give us an understanding of their experience, their feelings and their point of view.

If you could stand in someone else’s shoes… Hear what they hear. See what they see. Feel what they feel. Would you treat them differently?

Experiencing empathy requires a Jedi mind trick of sorts, albeit one we do to our own minds. It involves directing our awareness to a place our mind does not go of its own accord-to what it feels like to be another person-lingering there for a moment so we register the emotional and cognitive landscape, and then returning to our own reality.

Let’s use the following example. We call our bank’s customer hotline to dispute a late fee. We’re annoyed about the situation but having read The Squeaky Wheel we know that if we want to be effective and get the fee waved, we must manage our anger. Since empathy is a way to manage our emotions in complaining situations, we decide to test our empathy and give it a try.

We could consider how it might feel to be the representative by thinking of how we feel in our own jobs-but that would be misleading. We have to taste the other person’s world and register their landscape which means we must take the time to paint that landscape as fully as we can.

In this case, we should imagine what it is like to sit in a small cubicle all day facing a computer that dictates to us almost everything we do and say. We have to imagine we are low salaried employees, single parents or students working to pay for school. We have to envision spending our days dealing with frustrated and angry customers, getting yelled at regularly, called horrible names and not being able to respond in kind for fear of losing our jobs.

Doing the empathy exercise would probably make us realize that being kind and respectful when presenting our problem, might elicit feelings of relief and gratitude in the representative who was probably bracing for another angry caller. This in turn might make them feel more motivated to help us resolve our issue so they go the extra mile or make special efforts on our behalf.

Without the full empathy exercise, it would not have occurred to us that a civil and kind manner might elicit relief and gratitude from the bank’s representative as we would have assumed they should do their job regardless.

Indeed, insight is the true hallmark of empathy. The power of true empathy is its ability to give us a fresh understanding of the other person’s emotions and thoughts to illuminate an aspect of their experience that would not have been apparent to us had we not stepped into their shoes.

Stand in Someone Else’s Shoes

If you could stand in someone else’s shoes…Hear what they hear.  See what they see.  Feel what they feel.  Would you treat them differently?|  Do you know someone in your workplace or church or family who is so unsociable and quiet or someone who is irritating or maybe angry all the time?  Can you “stand in his shoes and try to imagine what he is thinking and feeling.  This is called empathizing with another person’s situation.

For example:  It really irritates me when I am preparing dinner or working on a project and the phone rings, and I stop what I am doing and answer the phone only to hear the voice of someone who wants to sell me a product, service or organization.  I cannot tell you how many times I have slammed the receiver down—and felt irritated and angry.

Today an article in “Psychology Today” challenged me to consider what the life of that telephone salesperson is like—to imagine what he hears –thinks—feels?  , So imagine with me what it is like to:

Sit in a small cubicle all day facing a computer that dictates to you almost everything you do and say.

You are an low salaried employee, maybe a single parent or student working to pay for school.

You spend your days dealing with frustrated and angry customers, getting yelled at regularly,  having persons swear at you, having person after person slamming the receiver down —which feels like a slap in the face—feels like cold hard rejection?  And the slaps just keep happening all day long.

If you could stand in someone else’s shoes…Hear what they hear.  See what they see.  Feel what they feel.  Would you treat them differently?|

In this example, Jesus reminds and confronts me by asking, “Can you could stand in this person’s  shoes…Hear what he hears.  See what he sees.  Feel what he feels.  And will you treat him differently?

Shortly after writing this radio program, the phone rang.  I answered, and a nice voice said, “Hello this is Heather from the Press and . . .”  Tune in to the next Wisdom of the Wounded radio program to find out what I said.

Please click this link and watch the video by Cleveland Clinic that asks you: “To Stand in Someone Else’s Shoes.”  http://www.onbeing.org/blog/an-empathy-video-that-asks-you-to-stand-in-someone-elses-shoes/5063

That video may change your life . . .for the better.  That video may help you change the world by standing in someone else’s shoes… by hearing what they hear.   By seeing what they see.  Feeling what they feel.  You would probably treat each person you meet differently?

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