Photographer: J. Durham

We’ve all heard the idiomatic expression of “walking in someone else’s shoes” and yet how often do we consider this when communicating with others?  Often it’s not as easy as it sounds!

When we walk in someone else’s shoes it means we’re invested in understanding their perspective, their viewpoint, even when it differs from our own.  It’s a vitally important skill when we interact with others and can lead to several benefits including:

a. Understanding what your employer expects so you can deliver the best results

b. Understanding what a spouse or significant other wants or needs so you can have less misunderstandings and a more satisfying relationship

c. Helping us cope with day-to-day experiences in both a personal and professional realm

Think of walking in someone else’s shoes by considering this:

*Can you feel what they feel?

*Can you see what they see?

*Can you hear what they hear?

For some, this may be a natural behavior; for others it may seem somewhat daunting.  If you fall into the latter category here are five suggestions on how to develop this skill:

1. Recognize that you’re not going to be right all the time (even though it’s often tempting to think you are).

2. Acknowledge that other individuals you encounter have strengths that differ from yours and in fact may be complementary.

3. Express genuine curiosity in what others think, what they do and what they believe by asking them thoughtful questions.

4. Encourage others to continue speaking and sharing their ideas by saying “please tell me more about that” and also by thanking them for their input.

5. Set out to learn from others in order to expand your own perspective.

When we make it a priority to walk in someone else’s shoes, we stand an excellent chance of laying the groundwork for strong, healthy relationships.  Additionally, we increase the probability that others will take a reciprocal interest in our perspective.

Can you see why this is an important first step toward effective communication?  I can’t wait to hear your perspective.

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