November 1, 2023

seek first to understand, walk a mile in someone else's shoes
                                                                                                                                        Photo by Anastasia Vityukova


Before I judge or make a comment, I try to walk a mile in someone else's shoes.  

This is something I learned many years ago after reading Dr. Stephen R. Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Stephen Covey encourages us to seek first to understand, then to be understood.  In other words, listen to people's ideas and feelings. 

But many folks are not good at this.  They make rash decisions without looking at a situation from a different point of view.  They may never consider what a person might be going through or why they act a certain way.  There are reasons why people behave the way they do. 

Here's a good example.  

I was present at a neighborhood board association meeting where a neighbor asked if he could replace dead plants at one of the island entrances and be paid for the work.  The president thought it was a good idea, but he had forgotten that the board of directors had a contract in place with a landscaping company that oversaw caring for the islands.  Somehow, that had slipped his mind.  

When I read a copy of the minutes a couple days later and I noticed the neighbor had been given the green light to start working on the island, I phoned the president to remind him of the landscaping contract.  At that point, he realized he had made a mistake by offering the neighbor the job.  He quickly sent an email to the board and neighbors to set the record straight and apologized for the misunderstanding.  The neighbor would need to send a quote so his services could be considered for next year.   

I am hoping the neighbor had no hard feelings.  But our secretary had a fit and quit.  The way I understand it was, she thought the president had gone back on his word.  

I will not judge her for quitting.  One of her relatives was facing a health issue.  Being secretary may have been too stressful for her now.  But it seemed to me that she never tried to understand why someone would say something and then take it back.  

She may have thought the president was being disrespectful when in fact, he is one of the most warm-hearted people in our neighborhood.  What she never considered was walking a mile in his shoes.  It has become apparent to me and some neighbors that our president has trouble remembering things and keeping things straight.  Because he hides it well (or perhaps he doesn't even know himself) she never assumed he had any problems.  

In this world where the majority is focused on themselves, it's time to be more giving.  To be more forgiving.  People may be feeling physically bad at the moment or struggling with underlying health issues.  They may be facing difficult times.  So, think before speaking.  Think before acting.  Seek to understand.  There are reasons why people behave the way they do.  

À la prochaine!  

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