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What it REALLY Means to Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes

57 what it really means to put yourself in someone elses shoes

We’ve ALL heard the adage “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” In theory, we can wrap our head around the concept. You try and think like the other person and understand things from their perspective. But it is hard to put into practice. In a recent episode of the Negotiations Ninja podcast, Bob Burg shed some light on why it’s so difficult.

Your belief system shapes your worldview

Human beings come into every situation entrenched in their own belief system. But let’s backtrack: What is a belief? Bob points out that a belief is a subjective truth. It’s the truth as individuals understand it to be. It doesn’t mean it’s THE truth, but it’s our truth. It’s the way we see the world.

It isn’t something we sought, it was handed to us through our upbringing, environment, schooling, newspapers, television, movies—everything you touch, taste, see, hear, and smell. It all culminates into our belief system. He notes that by the time we’re toddlers, our belief system has been put in place. Every experience after that adds on to that foundational premise.

We live our lives trapped by our unconscious operating system. But everyone else is the same. Conflict is two different people seeing the same thing from two totally different perspectives, but thinking the other person is seeing it the same way. That’s why it’s called a misunderstanding. We think people see the world the same way we do.

It’s why stepping into the other person’s shoes isn’t so easy. We can’t step into their minds because we’re not them. So how do you put yourself in someone else’s shoes?

The human need to be heard and understood

Bob’s answer? Ask good questions, then listen. Don’t assume that what you’re hearing is what they’re saying. Ask for clarification. To the degree that you’re willing to listen is the degree that you’ll understand. The degree that you listen is the degree that they feel heard.

It’s human desire to feel heard and understood by another human being. When we listen that way, they’re much more likely to feel good about us. Trust is easier to cultivate. And nothing is more important than trust. Bob emphasizes that “All things being equal, people will do business with or refer business to, and allow themselves to be influenced by those people they know, like, and trust.”

People engage in negotiations based on a belief that they hold. It’s why it’s so important in cross-cultural negotiations to understand the worldview of the person you’ll be negotiating with. How are the cultures different? How do they view communication, business, and sharing a meal? What about relationships? It’s critical to understanding the other party. If you don’t know these things, you’ll make assumptions that may not be beneficial.

THE most influential thing you can do

In his book, Bob says that sometimes the most influential thing you can do is just listen. Listening has become a lost skill. Is there a way to stop the trend? Bob believes that it begins with ourselves. Keep conscious awareness of your listening skills. Set yourself up to speak 20% of the time and listen 80%.

He also notes that you must catch yourself. Do not allow yourself to interrupt someone. It’s about the worst thing you can ever do, especially in an emotional conversation. Nothing will turn someone off faster and solidify the position they already have in their mind.

Bob Burg is full of amazing insight into the human mind. To learn more about connecting with people, managing your emotions, putting yourself into someone else’s shoes, and how to be an influencer—listen to episode #171 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast!