How many pairs of shoes lurk in your closet and under the bed?
I know shoe obsession goes beyond Imelda Marcos and Carrie Bradshaw. Not me. I am foot challenged.
So while I don’t ‘get it’, I think I understand the foot ware obsession:
It’s hard walking a mile in our own shoes: much less imagining what it’s like to walk in someone else’s.
Unable to walk that proverbial mile in another’s shoes, allows judgment to step in. Suddenly, it’s harder to understand those blisters, bunions, corns, callous’s that fancy heel-wearer is sporting.
Empathy, like a shoe-horn, slides you into someone else’s shoes. But I wonder: do we want that kind of pain? Even if it’s the pain we can relate to? It’s easier to look at ‘them’: unemployed, lonely, fired, depressed, awkward, broke, purposely different, fat, alone – with disdain and distance. It’s easier to acknowledge: “That would never happen to ME!”
Like preventing the flu, keeping (emotional) distance is a preventative measure.
If you have to get close, perhaps you think ‘they’ deserve what they got. Certainly they didn’t work or try hard enough. It’s like those who said the Holocaust was the Jews fault: they were too successful, wealthy, powerful. OR the Tutsi’s had too much power and land. OR the Armenians were Christians, not to mention well-educated compared to the Turks. REALLY???? To be fair, genocide doesn’t start with a massacre. It starts with one painful soul taking his/her frustration out on someone ‘safe’. It starts with bullying. ‘Someone’ others also resent. ‘A different someone’ who thinks: rather you than me. Someone who doesn’t want to imagine how it feels to be the recipient of bullying.
Telling someone: “well you need to: (man up, lose weight, stop talking about ‘xxx’, get out there more, don’t be so aggressive, be more like you, be less like you)….”
“get over it” is not what that person needs. It’s what YOU need to keep YOU safe.
Preventing genocide and bullying is understanding and protecting another’s need for safety day-to-day.
That’s why I have always believed the pharmaceutical industry has missed the mark by not creating a magical pill: an empathy pill. A pill to offer the judgemental and naive, the distant and disdainful of those who don’t like and don’t fit into other’s shoes. When fear and the need to put someone else down overtakes us, we should all learn to say (to ourselves): ‘Here, have an empathy pill.’
These would be bitter pills to swallow because empathy is a toughie.
Do we really want to stop judging others and give up our safety? Here are 12 things to consider:
- REALIZE you probably have NO idea what the other person is feeling. Realize that knowing they are in ‘pain’ may be enough.
- DON’T say, “I know EXACTLY what you are going through, because do you really? How can you?
- SHARE experiences that are similar but only later, just to let them know that they are not alone.
- ASK how you can help to make it better. Listening helps. Just listening – to them – not to yourself talking about yourself.
- ASK if it’s okay for you to offer a suggestion. Don’t assume you know what someone else needs.
- ASK questions: even if it’s just ‘tell me more’
- DON’T judge. When you judge, you bully – it’s unkindness.
- LISTEN for the underlying emotion, pain and/or issue which you can probably relate to.
- DON’T make this about you. It’s not. Here’s why: you don’t know. What you did or what you would do just doesn’t matter. You don’t have all the facts even if you’ve been told.
- TELL someone you care. Ask them to tell you more. Ask them how you can help.
- MOST OF ALL: Imagine what it would be like if… How you would feel if…. How it must be to feel such pain… What you want from someone if you felt…. What you would want or need from someone if….
- STAND UP AND REMIND others to also walk in another’s shoes. Remind people inflicting pain on others does NOT lessen their own pain. Not really. Not for long.
There’s room for all of us in the shoe store of life. IF we bother to understand someone else’s heel height.
What will you do to understand someone else’s pain and perspective?