OK, so I am back from the wilderness… A truly needed and majorly enjoyable week away in the simply stunning county of Cornwall, overlooking the harbour in Falmouth… (sighs audibly and contentedly) …Wonderful stuff.
In a nutshell, glorious sunshine, the Eden project, the lost gardens of Heligan, Lands End, the Lizard (the most southerly and westerly points of mainland England), cream teas, real ale, proper Cornish pasties, breathtaking scenery, sailing trips, time with my wife… marvellous stuff.
Now then, while I was away I met some people… Lots of different people who live simple lives, some with less than simple lives and some that love the simplicity of their life… So I often empathised and felt that not only was I taking a holiday in the usual sense of the word, I also was stepping out of myself and stepping into a very different life while I was away and it made for a very rejuvenating experience.
Where am I going with this today? Let me explain…
I have written many times before of how I am personally drawn in by my favourite TV characters, because I often imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes… I know people who cry at all kinds of aspects of life because they empathise so greatly with others…
It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
Although I love the quote… Seeing an other’s point of view is just half the story, I believe. I mean, what if you could hold two opposed positions in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to think for yourself? Objectively and constructively?
In NLP, it is referred to as altering perceptual positions; for others, it is simply stepping into another’s shoes… Whatever we call it, the ability to put yourself in an other person’s shoes is a thing of amazing power and an essential skill in so many areas of life.
“Yes Adam, but we know this already… We are therapists, coaches, evolved readers with a keen interest in these things already… tell us something new…”
The last two weeks have seen the end to all my favourite TV shows, most of them with double bill season finales… There has been some brilliant TV viewing!
Fringe, Lost and Heroes all ended just recently and all of them featured the notion of shape-shifting, becoming someone else, or stepping into another reality of some kind. What I am writing about today is almost as magical as the fabulous TV sci-fi depictions, really it is…
Want more truth about your social situation? Put yourself in other people’s shoes. I spent much time on my holidays doing just that… I’ll add again that to do that, you have to get out of your own. When I say get out of your own, I am not referring to getting out of your brain with too much real ale! Or anything else for that matter…
What is interesting is that our own eyes are so often clouded by the desire to see ourselves in an agreeable light. You know what I mean here, don’t you?
You see, it can be a bit scary… Or even very scary… because when you put yourself in another person’s shoes you risk seeing yourself as others would see you, and that may not be quite as special as you might like to think. So there are many people that know the theory behind what I am talking about today… many people who might say, “Yeah Adam, I know all this stuff,” yet do not actually truly step elsewhere, take a holiday from themselves (so to speak) and have a thorough, deeper look at themselves…
Doing so thoroughly is well, well worth it though. 🙂
Most of us, the great majority of us think we are already great listeners and wonderful at empathising… Merely thinking it doesn’t make it the truth.
So what does? Well, let me give you a simple idea of what you can really do on a daily basis to step into others shoes…
Using NLP perceptual positions shifting and having someone guide you through a process is a great way… Or using self-hypnosis to really get engaged in the mindset and physical stance of another… Those things may not be at your fingertips (get in touch with me if you want them to be made more readily available though, I can offer pointers) so here is another idea.
Modern psychology and therapy circles refer to Active Listening. It is an utterly brilliant skill for anyone and everyone to master. It has transformed my life on many occasions! As with so many of the greatest and most powerful processes, it is incredibly simple.
If you find yourself in disagreement with someone for example, stop the decision-making for a short while and simply repeat it back in your own words, the other person’s argument that is… See if you can demonstrate that persons argument to them with eloquence. Then ask whether you got it right… For example:
“Hang on a moment Adam, before we go any further here I want to make sure I understand what you are saying to me. Please let me know if I have understood this correctly: You think I’m being too lazy here, that it’s my decision to make and even though I know the theory of this stuff, I should really embrace this process even if I am worried about what I may see from time to time. Is that what you’re saying?”
Those familiar with NLP will no doubt see that as pacing or even mirroring… Quite right… Do your best to stay out of decision making and judgment mode. This is really about discovering whether you heard right. Then demonstrating as much.
So you stop weighing in with your opinion, (tough for most of us) either directly by stopping mid-way with a, “But that’s where you’re wrong,” or with any kind of mockery of the other person’s opinion… And also aim to show that you really did take on board their opinion by not just quoting what they said word-for-word… Offer it back in your own words to show you understood and were genuinely attentive.
Very importantly today though is this… In order to step into the shoes of the example I gave earlier, you do have to visit a place outside of your preferred sense of self… In my example above, to put yourself in Adam’s shoes you have to consider the possibility that you may be acting lazily…. God forbid! 😉
When I am running one of my training courses, sometimes I purposely want to encourage dissent so that my students consider many possible solutions, and one way of doing so is to step in and mirror/match/agree with to some extent the opinions of the minority or an individual. What tends to happen is that the mirroring adds credibility to that thought process, the other students have had their mind opened to that thought process and people feel that they were heard.
Sometimes as well, when you’re teaching and you want to stir more engagement and discussion, the shy voices, less active voices can be mirrored for great effect… You are showing that you care enough to take the time to absorb their opinion.
OK, I have to go wade through many hundreds of emails and get some catching up done prior to my first client of the day… I hope you have a great one…