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When’s the Last Time You Walked In Someone Else’s Shoes?

March 5, 2019 Joe Mechlinski


It’s not enough to read about experiences in a book or listen to a description of what a person goes through. Classrooms only take you so far. You won’t know it, until you live it. It’s like when my wife goes away for the weekend and leaves me in charge of the kids. Only then do I truly appreciate the difficulty of the work she does every single day.

The heart brain is literally an energy field. 

If we want to connect with people, we need to stand where they are standing, to see the world through their hearts. Engagement doesn’t mean dropping a check to a food bank into a mailbox. It requires taking the time to volunteer at the food bank, seeing the look on the recipients’ faces as they pick up the food. It means taking the opportunity to sleep at a homeless shelter. 

When was the last time you spoke to the person who cleans your office at night? This doesn’t mean you need to scrub toilets alongside the person, but try to get a sense of what their life is like. If people had a sense of what it’s like to work at a DMV, they’d be less quick to harshly judge its workers. Maybe you’d discover that they think we are lazy, impatient, and ignorant. Use your lunch break to spend time with workers from a different department. If you’re an executive, then spend time with a lower-level employee. Lower-level employees should try to get a sense of what life is like for the people in charge. If you drive to work every day, try taking the bus or subway. What’s important is that you embrace these opportunities without an agenda besides deepening the connection with the other person and the world around you.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Detroit’s Superhero Training Academy, a not-for-profit that empowers children to tap into their inner superheroes and unleash their potential. As part of the curriculum, the children dress up as superheroes, wearing masks and capes, and go through the neighborhood executing various challenges. The students even choose superhero names. 

The purpose of this dress-up is to place them in the emotional space of the person, or superhero, that they want to become. It helps create empathy, which is necessary for true engagement. 

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