The saying ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’ is something that we all have heard. But, how often do you think of it and use it to your advantage? If ‘not at all’ comes to mind, then I suggest you write down the saying and post it somewhere you are having the most problems with other people. Why? The benefits of understanding and applying this rule into your life cannot be understated.
What Does Walk A Mile In Someone Else’s Shoes Mean?
It means living someone else’s life. Experiencing what they’ve experienced. Seeing things the way they see things. And having the obstacles, hardships, or other life experiences that they are having. In short, it means stepping into their shoes and going through life as them.
Of course, that’s impossible! You will never fully experience life as someone else, nor should you want to. You are too busy with your own life to literally walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. You were created to walk in your own shoes and go through life in your own way, and that’s the true ticket to happiness in life; however, being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes once in a while is also important for happiness in life.
The Benefits Of Walking In Other’s Shoes
There are many benefits to taking the time to see things from other people’s viewpoints. There is a lot to value in doing this. When you adopt the belief that walking in other people’s shoes is important, you will experience life in a brand new way.
1. It Helps You Accept Other People
My friend has a mother-in-law who is miserable. I have never seen her happy, even in the most beautiful of settings. The saying to walk in someone else’s shoes helps to remind him that even though she is miserable, there are things that have made her this way. It helps to lessen the anger and annoyance he feels towards her, accept her for who she is instead of wishing she was someone different, deal with her more appropriately, and avoid all those negative feelings that affect his day in a very negative way.
The fact is that people are doing the best that they can – period. They cannot be more kind, more loving, more knowledgeable, or more anything because they don’t have that awareness yet. Their life, up until this point, has contributed to their awareness, and this just happens to be where they are along their path.
You could never understand what has led them to where they are now unless you have walked a mile in their shoes. Their experiences have affected their habits, perceptions, beliefs, and attitude, and while you may not like the way they are – or wish that they could be someone else – knowing that they are doing the best they can with the awareness they have is the best way to accept them for who they are.
Understanding that people are walking a different path than you will work to help you accept your friends, partner, mother, father, son, or daughter. It will work to help you accept your co-workers or the cashier who is always rude to you. It will help you accept anyone as they person they are and not wish they could be someone else, because – as you know from seeing things from their point of view, they can’t be anyone different at this point in their life.
2. It Makes You More Compassionate
We are often the most judgmental with the people we don’t understand. We don’t like the way they act or agree with what they believe, so we lose our temper with them, yell at them, put them down, talk about them behind their backs, and speak from a place of narrow-perception – where we are only thinking from our point of view. This makes us ugly and mean in other people’s eyes, and it can ruin our relationships with them.
Being compassionate benefits you, your relationships, and the world around you. When you are able to sympathize with where others are coming from – or at least try to, then you are a kinder person. You will like other people more. They will like you more. You will do more things for other people. They will do more things for you. Compassion and kindness will impact your life in a huge way, and life will feel easier and more fun.
If you are not feeling very compassionate towards someone, learn more about them. Ask them questions about themselves, and you will get insight into what they believe and why they are the way they are. This helps you ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ on some level, and you get an inside peek through their eyes. The trick is to really listen to them without adding your own judgments in, and then allow yourself to understand where they are coming from. You will find yourself being much more compassionate the more you learn about them.
As a side note, many people will argue that walking in someone else’s shoes actually makes you less empathetic. Why? Because when you understand that someone is struggling with something that you have struggled with and overcame, you can judge them for not being strong enough to overcome it themselves. For instance, if you quit smoking, and you are watching someone struggling with overcoming smoking, then you might label them as weak-minded. However, by remembering the first point of accepting other people as doing the best that they can, your empathy can stay intact.
3. It Increases Your Level Of Success In All Areas Of Life
When it comes to co-workers, friends, and family members, seeing things from their point of view is important! Your relationships with them can help make or break your success and happiness, and if you are constantly judging them based on your perceptions of what is right or wrong, then you are going to affect your own life negatively both directly and indirectly.
You will affect your life directly by keeping yourself stuck in a negative state, which is bad for your health, happiness, and motivation in life. It keeps you in a place where you are unable to get the life you want because you are too focused on negative thoughts and feelings and incorporate too many limiting beliefs in your life that hold you back from doing what you need to do.
You will also affect your life indirectly because your judgments or inability to see things from their viewpoint could come back to bite you in some way. They may talk negatively about you to someone who could boost your career. They may become someone who is in a position to help you, but won’t because they don’t like you. Other people are the lifeline to our success, and it’s important not to burn any bridges in life because you never know when you will need those people for something.
You will often hear successful people relating to the world around them. They can relate to the struggles and the misfortunes that other people have. They realize that they have walked in their shoes – at least in some points of their life, and if they haven’t, they can imagine themselves in their shoes and feel what they are going through on some level. That awareness into their struggles helps them stay on course to what really matters in life. It motivates them to keep going and work towards a better life.
In fact, since you can’t change someone who is unhappy, unsuccessful, and unwilling to do anything about it, you might as well try to understand how they think. Walking a mile in their shoes will give you a huge window into how NOT to think or behave if you want a better life. While a positive mentor is essential to a successful life, negative influences can have a huge impact on your motivation to keep moving forward too.
4. It Helps You Experience Things That May Never Happen To You
Have you ever heard someone who has a boring life say that they live through the stories of their friends? I have. For instance, I’ve known plenty of young mothers who lived their younger years through their friend’s stories. They didn’t get to party, date a lot of people, and do the things their friends did, so all the failures, triumphs, and lessons learned from living a typical young person life was learned through other people.
This isn’t a bad thing. If you can take the time to listen to other people, understand where they are coming from, and put yourself in their shoes, you can learn a bunch of lessons that help you live a happier and more fulfilling life without the hardships. If they can pass on the life lessons they’ve learned to you, and you don’t have to go through the struggles they have to learn them, then that is a benefit!
A lot of people say that you can’t truly understand something unless it happens to you, and that’s kind of true, but you can take the lesson from it if you are open enough to do so. So, stay open to people who are living a life that you may never live, and experience things that have happened to them.
What If You Can’t Walk A Mile In Their Shoes?
What if you just can’t see yourself in their shoes no matter how hard you try? What if your perception towards other people can’t change because you don’t understand why they do what they do? Well, this is when you have to talk to people who possibly have walked a mile in their shoes.
Get online and ask questions in forums. Make the questions clear enough that you can get some detailed answers as to why people are behaving in the way they are behaving or why they could possibly be behaving the way they are behaving. These answers will help you see things from their point of view better.
For instance, one of my neighbors is miserable. She doesn’t like people in her yard, at all. She doesn’t like getting flyers. She doesn’t like people coming to her door. She doesn’t like people parking in front of her home on the public street. She doesn’t even like it when a leaf from another yard comes into her yard. I had a hard time understanding her, and for a long time, we struggled as neighbors. Then, I got online and started looking for people who were dealing with people like her, but, instead, I found people like her! They were talking about how other people didn’t respect their wishes and boundaries, and they felt like other people were trying to control them or act better than them by walking on their grass, parking in front of their house, and ignoring their ‘no soliciting’ signs. That helped put things in perspective a little. But, when I found out that she was an ex-prison guard and a divorced mother who didn’t see her grandkids but once every few months, I was able to walk more in her shoes and see how much control meant to her and how disrespected she felt. She was controlling what she could, her yard.
The Bottom Line
The thing is you need to have the desire to see things from another point of view. Which means you need to want to stop conflict and unhappiness in your life because not understanding other people is where all the conflict and unhappiness stems from.
When you are upset with others, you naturally feel less happy. You can’t be in a state of happiness when you are judging, being jealous, being angry, or being downright hateful. You can’t be happy when you feel separate from everyone around you. It’s impossible to be in a positive and negative state at the same time. And when you are in such a negative state, conflict is the number one thing you will turn to. You will want to make other people feel just as miserable as you feel, and you will do what you need to do to accomplish that.
When you are able to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, you are more accepting, more compassionate, more successful, and get more life experience, and that makes you happier. There is less struggle with your life and with your relationships. You are in a positive state, where your life feels easier and more rewarding. And your awareness is open, which means you understand what doesn’t work in life – like laziness, negativity, and judging others – and you will never get stuck in life because of that. And, if that’s not reason enough for you to always try and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, I don’t know what would be!