I just finished reading “Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World” by Sam Sommers. The background of Sommers’ entire book is that the context of situations matter. He believes that if we think differently about how we see the world and are more observant and aware that we will be more effective in our jobs, with our co-workers, family, and community. He talks about understanding others and the context of situations we are in, as well as, how so many of us exhibit inaction and indifference.
Do you like to put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Does it help you to see the full context of the situation? Sommers states: “Force yourself to see familiar situations from unfamiliar perspectives. Everyday, make yourself walk the proverbial mile in the proverbial shoes of others.” (page. 40) Yes, yes, yes. It is something I often hear myself saying: “Put yourself in their shoes.” (With the person I am talking to cringing a bit). I cannot remember if it was an idea my parents always said, but it is something that has been ingrained in my thinking.
We usually do not know what the other person is going through, their background, problems, stress, etc. Attempting to look at a situation or dilemma from another’s point of view helps us to think about the way they may approach a situation. Did they take a certain path because of x, y, and/or z? At the very least, putting yourself in another’s shoes encourages compassion. You take a step back, take a moment to breathe, and look at the situation from different angles before responding. This way you are not reacting from the spur of the moment.
Another part of Situation Matters that I felt was helpful is when he talks about indifference and inaction. He asks us how do we respond to issues we see on a daily basis. Do you report a pothole? Do you alert a store when there is a spill or mess, or do you hope someone else has or will? Do we want to make our community better? Or do we have too much going on to care?
While my husband and I are not saints, we have vowed to do what we can to speak up in our jobs, with our families, etc in hopes that our taking a stand means the next person, co-worker, colleague, and family member can have a better experience one situation at a time. Often that means that we need to put ourselves in another’s shoes to decide if we should take a stand. Does the person need help? Do they want it? Should management know of repetitive issue that needs to be resolved? If we do not say anything, will anyone else? Being the one to take a stand is hard. It does not always make you more likable by others, but at least you are sticking to your values and convictions.
We can each do better to think about another’s situation and to be sure to speak up and take action! Even if I am doing it in my home life, and was doing it in my work life, I can still do better to take a stand in my community. Are you putting yourself in other people’s shoes? Where in your life can you take a stand and take action?!