I mean really really get in their shoes. Well, not literally!
At a basic level, getting into someone’s shoes is to think “how the other person may be thinking.” If you really want to get into their shoes, you need to find out the “worldview” of the person. What is their outlook and approach to life? Then we come down to the specifics of how they might be thinking about this particular topic in discussion.
I was exposed to this early in my life (sort of accidentally) although I didn’t know the terminology at that time. I was in my tenth year of school and it was a statewide exam and I was competing with 400,000 other students. It was a lot of hard work and I was happy that I was ranked 20th for the state.
While it was delightful, I always felt that there must be a better way to this. You study the whole year and you get graded based on a paper that write in less than three hours. There must be a better way and I thought I need to figure this out before the next public exam two years later.
So it started when I asked one of my teachers what was his approach when he was on of the examiners grading the papers. It was wonderful to get his perspective on “what he thought was important.” I followed up with the “why” question and also got his perspective on “why he thought something was important.”
Obviously there was a gap between “what I thought was important” and “what the examiner thought was important”. This baffled me at first and then my quest continued. I would keep asking every teacher about his or her perspective on what “really matters” when they look at a paper to grade. Remember that they have six minutes to grade a paper and usually students write about 40-50 pages in the three hours. So there is no way anyone can read everything. If “what matters” to the examiner is not there in the paper, chances that the paper gets a better grade are slim.
Now, the ultimate test is to see whether what I did worked. The results show that. I secured 2nd Rank for the state (out of 160,000 students). It was definitely not because I was smarter than 158,998 of them. I think I spent a bit more time trying to “get in the shoes” of the examiner. What really convinced me was that I didn’t work as hard as I had to for my earlier public exam.
I admit that I don’t try my best to apply this lesson in everything I do. But whenever I have put in an effort in this direction, the payback has been pretty good.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Note 1: For links to the other 191 entries in the “Distinguish yourself” series, please visit my Squidoo lens on the same topic:
Squidoo Lens: Distinguish yourself
Note 2: The first 25 entries in the series have been packaged in a ChangeThis manifesto that was published on September 07, 2005. You can download that manifesto here:
ChangeThis Manifesto: 25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself (PDF, Free)
Note 3: My latest manifesto on ChangeThis was published on August 6, 2008. This is a photographic manifesto featuring 15 of my mini sagas (stories in exactly 50 words). Here is the link: