Author: Brooke Terrell, Certified Executive Coach, 45 Degrees Coaching

What do you gain when you step into another person’s shoes?

  • More empathy? Yes.
  • Less bias? Yes.
  • Stronger relationships? Yes.
  • Knowing what someone else wants? NO!

So, how do you learn what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes? The Harvard Business Review highlighted 25 studies on perspective taking. In 24 of the experiments, perspective taking did not help participants know what others want, feel, or think.  Even if participants knew each other well, attempting to take another’s perspective wasn’t helpful, and sometimes even harmful. 

So again, how do you learn what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes? The answer is in the 25th experiment. Rather than take another’s perspective, shift to get another’s perspective. You have to ask.

How to GET into someone else’s shoes:

  • Predict what your team needs from you? Or do you ask?
  • Assume a short text was sent in anger? Or do you ask?
  • Guess what your boss expects? Or do you ask?
  • Try to read your wife’s mind? Or do you ask? 

Coaching Keys

Beware of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and using that perspective to decide what they think, feel or want. Remember the only way to KNOW is to ASK. So ASK!

Sources:

https://hbr.org/2018/10/research-perspective-taking-doesnt-help-you-understand-what-others-want

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcomm.2021.611187/full