Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Other Shoes

When you are dealing with a difficult situation or person, how often do you stop and put yourself in the other person’s shoes? Not to be able to tell yourself what a mean, rotten person they are but to understand how what they are saying or doing might be justified in their mind or to realize that they may see the situation entirely different from the way you do?

Why would I suggest such a thing? Not because I think anyone should blindly adopt the beliefs or attitudes or ideas of another person but because it can be the optimal strategy for us to get what we want out of life.

Do we want to be hurt? No. Do we want to be taken advantage of? No. Do we want to lose in negotiations? No.

Seeing a situation from another person’s point of view can help us construct agreements that benefit us in the ways that matter most to us and benefit the other person as well. When we create those kinds of agreements, we all win. All sides are more likely to abide by the agreement and feel more positive about each other and therefore less likely to try to do harm.

If we understand the other person’s point of view, we may realize a situation is never going to get better and we know to get out. We may be able to realize that what they are saying or doing that is hurtful comes out of their own pain or fears and nothing we do will change their behavior. And we know to get out or at least not take things personally.

If we can understand how the other person thinks and we are in danger, we are much more likely to be able to take effective action to protect ourselves.

Note that understanding does not have to equal acceptance of the other person’s way of thinking! Nor does it mean we must tolerate abusive actions or words.

But there is power in understanding how and why others do things. There is power in knowing who we are and choosing how we interact with others rather than simply reacting.

We all perceive life and the world and people around us through filters of past experience. This can significantly distort our perceptions. Putting ourselves in the shoes of others can help us see situations in other ways and that may help us see more clearly other possible explanations besides those offered by our filters. And seeing more clearly may give us the courage to take actions that will make our lives better which we were not taking because of distorted expectations about what would happen if we did.

Wishing all of you a week, a month, a lifetime of being able to see through the eyes of others as well as your own.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),


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