Put yourself in another person’s shoes

Put yourself in another person’s shoes

Thinking from another person’s perspective is like borrowing someone’s eyeglasses. Your field of view turns unfamiliar, but at the same time you notice why the other person has exactly those eyeglasses. From my own experiences I’ve noticed that when it comes to thoughts, people rarely know how to borrow each other’s eyeglasses. They “look” at each other with their own glasses and see “falsities”.

People do things that are stupid in other people’s opinions. Things that make other people think “how can there be any sense in that?” These thoughts lead to people calling each other stupid, mean or annoying.

Think about this for a second, from your own point of view. What kind of feelings do you get when someone calls you stupid? “You don’t know me. You wouldn’t say that if you knew me better.” Does that sound familiar? Have you ever called another person mean? If you have, have you ever tried to understand the other person in that situation and tried to find reasons for this person’s actions?

Communication is key. The most important question you can ask yourself to enhance your communication is “why is this feeling/action/thought right in this person’s opinion?” This is the easiest way to avoid misunderstandings. When other people’s actions confuse you, have you ever thought that your opinion is cynical? Instead of thinking why other people are wrong, think about how they’re right in their own opinion. We all have our own world view.

Let’s take an example. You get to know another person. From your first conversation it turns out that they’ve been unemployed and living off on supplementary benefits for a long time. Instead of thinking that the other person is a bum, challenge your own prejudices. “Why isn’t this person looking for a job in their particular life situation?” A lot of people might blame them for being lazy. Maybe the unemployment is because of a sickness. Maybe the person is a single parent to a small child. There’s a reason for everything.

Are you truly listening to what other people say? Listening isn’t just hearing. A genuine and skilled listener knows how to communicate based on what they’re hearing. Let’s take an example to understand this easily. Your friend tells you that they are distressed because of a coming move. Let’s compare two possible answers:

1. “Can you tell me what’s distressing you in the move?”

2. “Yeah! I had the same experience when I moved to my own apartment.”

Neither of these answers is objectively bad. Nevertheless, the other one proves that you’re  genuinely interested. The first option lets your friend know you want to know more. The second option directs the conversation to be about yourself, which often kills the conversation. Other people will more easily receive you when you listen to them genuinely, because you’ve already established a personal bond.

These are ways to become a more empathetic person. Not everyone is capable of acting empathetically in every situation, so these ways of thinking are useful to enhancing your social skills. An empathetic person doesn’t think that the other person is wrong. And empathetic person understands the reasons behind others’ feelings and actions.

People have an easier time socializing with you when you can take them into consideration. Empathy strengthens the people around you. When the people close to you don’t have to prove themselves to you, mutual understanding grows and personal bonds are strengthened.

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