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It’s easy to see our own point of view.
Think about any day-to-day situation in life and work and it will be pretty easy for you to share what you think about.
But, sometimes easy means that we are default thinking – leaning on our long held beliefs or judgements.
It’s worth taking a minute to walk in someone else’s shoes. You may be surprised at how the situation can look completely different. Or, at least allows us to pause and perhaps have new empathy.
In thinking about this topic recently, I came across a poem that inspired the phrase “walking in the moccasins.” I read it in this episode, a beautiful reminder that it’s worth getting out of our own shoes and experiencing another’s journey through their eyes (or shoes).
Episode 95 Show Notes
Episode 95 Transcript
This is Rebecca Clark. Episode 95. Walking in the Moccasins This’ll podcast is for anyone that knows they haven’t yet found and offered up their best work but are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to move your desk? Growing up, I often heard the phrase walk a mile in their shoes or walk a mile in their moccasins, and I realized when people would say that that they wanted me to take a look at another point of view or think about how someone else felt. And recently I was wondering where that phrase came from. And so I looked it up on the Internet and found that it did not come from what I thought it came from. And it waas the walk a mile in his moccasins phrase. I looked up, and I found out that it was Mary T. Lathrop, who was also known as the Daniel Webster of Prohibition, who wrote it. She was an American poet, a licensed preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 18 71 a temperance reformer, a suffragist, she co founded Michigan Suffrage Organization in 19 whips, 18 70 and she was identify with progressive women of Michigan at that time, and I’m surprised to hear that. That’s the person that wrote this poem. So I wanted to read it to you today, just in case you haven’t heard it. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it. It’s called Judge Softly. Pray don’t find fault with the man that limps or stumbles along the road. Unless you have warned the moccasins he wears or stumbled beneath the same load. There may be tears in his souls that hurt, though hidden away from view. The burden he bears placed on your back may cause you to stumble and fall to Don’t sneer it. The man who is down today unless you have felt the same blow that caused his fall or felt the shame that Onley the fallen No, you may be strong, but still the blows that were hiss unknown to you in the same way may cause you to stagger and fall to. Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins or pelt him with words or stone or disdain unless you are sure you have no sins of your own. And it’s on Lee wisdom and love that your heart contains for, you know, if the temp tres voice should whisper, it’s soft to you as it did to him when he went astray. It might cause you to falter, too. Just walk a mile in his moccasins before you abuse, criticize and accuse. If just for one hour you could find a way to see through his eyes instead of your own muse, I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’ve been blind and narrow minded, even unkind. There are people on reservations and in the ghettos who have so little hope and too much worry on their minds. Brother there. But be for the grace of God. Go, You and I just for a moment slip into his mind and traditions and see the world through his spirit and eyes before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions. Remember toe. Walk a mile in his moccasins and remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders. We will be known forever by the tracks we leave In other people’s lives are kindnesses and generosity. Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins. By Mary T. Lathrop. 18 95 I thought This was a beautiful poem and if beautiful, reminder to hesitate when we want to jump to conclusions and say, Wait a second, What would I do if I were in his shoes? What would I say if someone said that to me, too? What kind of decisions could I make if I was dealing with the pressures she was dealing with? Why would he or she think that way about politics, about religion, about their work, about their neighbors? It’s worth taking the time to stop and contemplate these things. Once in a while recently, I was involved in a small role play where I had to play the role of a person going to their boss to say, Hey, I’m not enjoying my work right now. I’m a highly motivated person. I love doing what I’m really skilled at. I work well on teams. I love you, boss, but I just don’t like the work I’m doing right now, and I need some help. And the boss had a role to play because he needed certain projects done in a certain amount of time. He needed certain skill sets on them, and he needed certain people that he trusted to do the job, and I was a person he trusted. Alright, thanks. Character I had was a person that was trusted and so is interesting because it was testing skills of the boss, not me. I was playing the character. Someone asking for help in this other person was supposed to role play the boss and be able to come up with the right questions to ask me to find out what my real needs were and to see if there could be, ah, positive outcome for both of us. And it was really hard to stay in character, right, because your mind wants to go to exactly what you would think in that moment. And so when the boss said, Hey, can we give you more money? Many people’s first reaction to be like Oh, yeah, yeah, more money would help. But that wasn’t what my character wanted. They didn’t want more money. They wanted to enjoy their work more. And so I’d really had to cast aside my gut reaction to Okay, we could talk about it and really think about what this character was looking for. And I realized it wasn’t to difficulty for me. in some ways because over the last few years I’ve been someone that’s taught people and mentors people and saying, Listen, money isn’t the only thing toe look for in a job. It might sound good initially, but then after you get that money every day, you show up to do work, and that’s a lot of hours to do. If money is your only motivation, a day can feel really long if you’re just doing it for the money. But you have a stronger passion for the work, or see that there’s positive outcomes from what you create in your work. And those things can be very motivating. And if you get recognition or people rely on your expertise, or all these different things could be more motivating than money. And I just thought it was a great example of how I had to take the whole morning to kind of think through this character what they wanted, what they didn’t care about as much like money and how to represent this person. As this person interacted with another character that could make or break them right, they could fire them if they didn’t want to do the work that needed to be done. This was a valuable exercise for me. It was an example of walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins and looking at it through their eyes. And part of it was that the boss had certain projects somewhere short, and some are long and you look at that and say, Oh, well, this is easy The boss could just put them on the undesirable projects for a short amount of time. Or they could give them some interesting projects and some un interesting projects and to realize that there’s no right answer in these situations because there’s always going to be multiple pairs of moccasins out there. And there’s always going to be different types of moccasins to step into. You can’t say, Oh, I’ve been through this situation before. I know exactly how it goes Now you can recognize a situation go Oh, I’ve been through that. This is how we dealt with it then, or this is how the person felt then. But realizing that this is a different person, the moccasins will be slightly different. There may be some similarities, but there will be differences and to take that moment to sit back and go. Okay. What is this person really want? What do they really need? What do they really seeking? Do they know what they’re seeking? Let me step into their shoes for a moment and see how I would feel if someone said this to me or someone decided this about me or if I had the different challenges they were facing. And what if there’s challenges they have that I don’t even know about? What if one of their most difficult challenges is actually interacting with me? What if I’m an obstacle and I don’t even know it? Am I pausing long enough to think about where they’re coming from to be able to discover whether they’re having difficulty interacting with me? Or they perceived me as someone that’s holding them back, or someone that’s judging them so interesting? I encourage you this week, when you have a difficulty encounter, it could be a family member. It could be a coworker. It can even be the person checking out your groceries at the grocery store that you’re having a difficult interaction with, step back and try to figure out why they might be responding to you in that way what’s going on with, um, it may not have nothing to do with you or it may. Either way, thinking about them for a moment longer may help you interact with some a little differently, and in the end, you may never know. But you may nudge them in a way that makes their day. I was recently reading from a speech that was given by a woman in a leadership position, and she was saying she had this impression that she should stop checking her phone while she was waiting in the grocery line that particular week and thought, Well, that’s an odd impression. But she put her phone away when she was tempted to look at it at the grocery store, and in that moment she looked up and she saw this man that was buying some cat food. So she just made a little comment to him about the cat food. And he said, Yes, I have a cat and I’m worried that he won’t have enough food, and I know there’s a storm coming, so I got in here really quick to make sure that I got this food. So they started talking a few minutes about how much he loved this cat and everything. And then he paused and he said, You know what? I haven’t told anyone this, but it’s my birthday today. And in that moment that woman realized why she got that impression. She needed to get out of her own self for a few minutes and look around and be a little more aware than she normally was at the grocery store. And she was lucky that in her awareness there was someone standing right there that needed to tell someone that it was his birthday and he needed to hear back from another human being. Happy birthday, Catman, Right? Happy birthday. Have a great day with your cat. I’m so glad to have met you. It’s so little. But it made that man’s day that there was someone in the grocery store line of all things that he could share something that was on his mind, that he cared about. And she was willing to look up from her own shoes and see what was going on with him. Didn’t just change his day. It changed hers a swell, and she shared that story to an audience of over 12 million people, and now I’m sharing it with you. It’s a sequence of nudges. Take a minute or 10 to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins. Talk to you soon. If it is time for you to improve your work relationships, get the raise or move into a new career. I have two programs for you. The first is Make the Move, a self paced online course that leads you through the mindset, management principles and planning approaches that help you uplevel your work. The second is one on one coaching for those who are serious about transforming their work, now, find both at learn dot Move your desk dot com mhm.