I believe you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. If you want to take them seriously, and be taken seriously, you have to know how they feel, see why they act as they do. Before you can argue with them you have to gain a new perspective. And before you can give them advice, you have to understand what they need.
Me, my brother, and my dad were on a trip to Disney World in Florida to celebrate the new millennium. We were staying with our older cousins, making daily trips to the theme parks and writing of our experiences in our journals. Things were very stressful. The weather was making record low temperatures, and everyone had something different they wanted to see or do while they could. We were all a little upset, especially me. And the bed arrangements didn’t make things any easier. There were two guest beds. One was made from the couch out in the living room, and right above that, in the loft, was a second bed. My brother had picked the living room bed, while I preferred the bedroom in the loft. Things seemed to be peaceful, until after the second night when I felt I had the right to complain about where I’d slept the night before. The bed in the loft was terribly cold, and didn’t allow for a wink of sleep. I was upset at feeling duped, while my brother was obviously satisfied with having made the better of the choices. I remember we were all in the living room, and I told my dad that I should be able to sleep on the couch-bed that night because I’d already had to deal with a night of insomnia. When I proposed the idea to my brother, he refused to give up his position. I felt it extremely unfair that he should last the duration of the trip in comfort while I suffered and struggled to stay awake during our daily excursions.
My dad let us each argue our points for a little bet, watching as neither of us would give up our position on the dilemma. Then he told each of us to react as we thought the other was entitled. I was confused as my brother stated that I could have the living room bed. But I was overjoyed at the prospect, as well! My dad turned to me and asked the same thing of me. I told him that I should clearly have the living room bedroom, of course. He asked me the question repeatedly until I finally caught on. Reluctantly, I admitted to him that I had gotten the bed of my choice, and that I deserved nothing more. Pleased with both of us, my dad informed us that we’d be switching bedrooms on a nightly basis.
Though it may have seemed a very forced lesson that was learned that day, it did stick with me, at least up until this point. It may have seemed that neither my brother nor I may had learned the lesson that was being presented us, rather, simply saying what was expected of us. But it wasn’t our actions that taught me the ever-important lesson that you need to walk in someone else’s shoes, it was my dad’s. Before he ever told us that we had to see through the eyes of the other, he had to see through our eyes, see what he needed, and give us the advice that would last us a lifetime.
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