Thursday, May 13, 2010

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Because I think it could improve the lives of everyone on this planet, I've been moved to share something I've learned through my work with my life coach. That something is the concept of putting yourself in someone else's shoes.

When you are having a disagreement or an argument with your spouse or a  friend or your mother and you are having trouble seeing eye-to-eye on the matter, STOP. Stop the conversation. Stop thinking about the issue from only your perspective. Ask yourself, "How does he or she feel?" It will work like magic! You will suddenly know what you need to do! It's amazing.

I'll put myself (and Paul and Tyler) out there and share a story with you. One afternoon, Paul, Tyler and I were walking outside in the grass. Paul and Tyler started roughing around, pushing each other. Eventually, one of Paul's pushes was too much for Tyler and he hit the ground. I gasped at the sound his body made when it hit the ground. It was a loud thump. Tyler started crying. Then, Paul accused me of making Tyler cry by gasping.

That thought was crazy to me. He wasn't crying because I gasped, he was crying because he hit the ground. I thought I was being somewhat rational and told Paul not to tell me how to react when my son hits the ground, and I wouldn't tell him not to push my son to the ground. We were at an impasse. Paul was convinced I made Tyler cry, and I was convinced I did nothing wrong by gasping -- what mother doesn't gasp when her kids fall?

At that point, we dropped the issue, but it was still bothering me. Here's where the magic comes in. I brought the issue up with my life coach, Lynne. The first thing she asked was, "How do you think Paul felt when his push caused Tyler to fall to the ground?"

I said, "Oh. I never thought about how he felt. I guess he felt bad. They were just having fun. He didn't mean for Tyler to get hurt." I continued with a little epiphany, "Then, when I gasped, he probably thought it was in disapproval for pushing Tyler, but it wasn't ... I knew they were goofing around. I gasped at the sound of Tyler hitting the ground."

So Lynne said, "Then, what could you have said to Paul after Tyler fell instead of defending yourself for gasping?" Honestly, I struggled with this -- I was still thinking about defending myself. I needed some coaxing from Lynne. She suggested I could have said something to address Paul's feelings like, "Oh, don't worry, he's fine. You didn't mean to hurt him. This was just an accident." That would have let him know I didn't blame him, which I didn't.

It wasn't until Lynne got me out of my own head and into Paul's that I could handle this situation. Thinking about what Paul was thinking and feeling diffused my own defensiveness and created a channel of understanding and communication.

After my conversation with Lynne, I shared what I learned with Paul and we both apologized for our part. It was a great learning lesson. And that's just a minor little thing. Imagine if you could use this technique on much bigger, emotional issues!! Give it a try! I assure you, it will make a difference in your life!

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