I frequently joke that it’s best to “walk a mile in the other person’s shoes.” Then, if you don’t understand or can’t help, you’re a mile away….and you have their shoes. ?
But seriously, how many times have we heard or said, “If I were you…”? Most times, it’s sad when we’re giving or receiving advice (and in our role as consultants we do that quite often.)
But over the recent Labor Day weekend, I got to thinking about it more in terms of empathy and humility….of truly making more of an effort to put myself in the other person’s place and understand at a deeper level what they’re experiencing.
Here’s an example from my own life….
My daughter is a Senior this year and is taking a Child Development class. Her recent homework assignment required her to bring home my “electronic granddaughter” to care for. She had to respond to its life-like cries and determine what it needed, whether that was a diaper change, food, needs to be burped, or needing to be rocked and soothed.
My daughter handled the responsibility like a champ and, along with the way, gained valuable new perspective regarding parents and their children. I watched as she gradually started to see things from a “parent’s” perspective.
The entire experience got me thinking about how easy it is to say, “If I were you…” when, in reality, we know very little about another person’s trials, tribulations, challenges, successes, and failures.
In our world of recruiting, coaching and outplacement consulting, it’s invaluable to be able to put yourself in the shoes of both the client and the candidate. Meeting with both and listening to what each seeks and offers is essential to a successful match.
Listening to past challenges, disappointments, problems, and understanding what each party seeks for the future gives us the ability to understand each person not only as “employer/employee”, but as real people with goals, attitudes, strengths, weaknesses, and skill-sets.
So the next time you find yourself thinking, “If I were you…”, recognize that everything that comes after that statement is often of little or no value. Instead, treat the situation as an opportunity to really listen and gain a better understanding of the person and their problem or challenge. Turning off your “me” filter will help you expand your ability to effectively assist your clients, candidates, friends or family members.