Aug 062013

How to relate to each other successfully is arguably the biggest challenge faced by human beings all over the planet. Sometimes I get the impression some individuals give so little thought to others that they appear not even to realise other people are people.

The old native-American adage that you can’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes is wise advice. Truly understanding another person is a virtually unachievable task but the first step, as it were, to walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, is to put yourself in their position and see how you would feel in those shoes, before you begin to consider their journey.

Although it’s possible the other person will have completely different attitudes and reactions from yours (the subject of next week’s post), thinking how you would feel in their situation is a good start, the first staging post on the road to empathy.

Failure to ask the basic question, “How would I feel?” underlies millions of instances like these every day:

A rings B. B is eating and says he can’t talk now, so A terminates the call. On another occasion, B rings A. A says he’s eating and can’t talk now but B just talks anyway.

C has a headache and complains loudly and persistently, demanding sympathy from all sides. Later, when D gets a headache, C is impatient and can’t see what D is making such a fuss about.

These are mild examples but they are symptomatic of an inability to grasp the concept that if you don’t like whatever it is, there’s a good chance the other person won’t like it either and you owe them the courtesy of treating them in the manner you like them to treat you. Otherwise, you’re behaving as if the other person’s needs and preferences are subordinate to yours – and that is not the way to build healthy, happy relationships.

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