Have you heard the expression, “Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”? Well, it applies to communication as well. If you are committed to being an effective leader, then it is crucial to understand and appreciate the point of view of the people or person’s you are leading as well as your own.
People tend to project their own point of view onto others and then try to explain or make sense of their behavior. It doesn’t work. Everyone brings his or her own perspective to the situation and that perspective shapes and distorts reality.
Take something as simple as being “on time” for shift. Many people have the perspective that arriving within five minutes after the assigned time is “on time” while others believe arriving fifteen minutes before the assigned time is “on time.” This simple issues causes a multitude of problems because rather than putting yourself in the others shoes and appreciating their perspective, we make decisions based on our own perspective what’s right and wrong as if there is a universal truth about being “on time”.
Now think about something more complex such as why someone might be volunteering their time and energy as an EMT and what their expectations of joining your organization are. As a leader, if you don’t know what their perspective is and you just attempt to handle the issues that arise from your perspective you will fail to lead effectively. Instead, you will be at best seen as out of touch or at worst as manipulative or coercive.
Effective leaders are curious about those they lead. They don’t say things like, “Well, that’s how I learned and it worked for me,” or “They should “ or “I knew s/he wouldn’t succeed.”
If you want high quality people in your organization then you must lead in a high quality way.
Putting yourself in their shoes when you communicate is one tool for that you can start by asking yourself, “What might it be like for that person?” Then ask the person for their point of view and just listen to understand (not to correct or judge them).
Remember people always do things that make sense to them therefore being curious allows you to get to the underlying perspective which is driving their behavior. Once you understand that, you can share your own perspective and come to an agreement about workability vs. the “right” way to do it.
Whenever you are about to communicate ask yourself, “Whose shoes are you in?” Do whatever you can to get into the others’ shoes otherwise you might end up putting your foot in your mouth.