Putting myself in the shoes of others.
This is a skill that I have been practicing very much these last couple of days. By putting myself in the shoes of those I talk to, interact with, or even teach, I take away the veil of ignorance from my eyes to get a more holistic view of any situation. It might help solve arguments, prevent miscommunication, and best of all, bring you closer to the other person in mind and heart.
So in Korea, I have been tutoring about 7 kids. They range from 2nd grade, to 3rd grade, up to the 6th grade. Now I have to tell you, these kids are the rowdiest bunch ever. Well then again, what kind of kid isn’t pretty rowdy when surrounded with his friends? Anyways, a huge problem that I have with these kids is that they never pay attention. I will ask them to solve a couple of word problems one second, and the second I turn away, they start goofing off again. This made me really frustrated in the beginning which made me just want to smack these kids and force them to pay attention, but I knew that this wasn’t the answer. I had to put myself in their shoes and assess the situation from their point of view:
I then saw this imposing teacher forcing me to solve word problems, when I just wanted to go out and have fun and play with my friends. I felt tired from school, and even more tired that I had to do additional English tutoring on top of it. I was bored.
When I suddenly truly put myself in the shoes of my kids, I knew that it wasn’t their problem that they weren’t paying attention to me, but rather my problem because I simply wasn’t making learning interactive enough. I yielded all the power, and simply told them what to do. They had no say in anything. I then realized that I had to empower them in a sort of way, in which learning wasn’t something that wast just crammed down their throats but rather something that they actually had a part in.
I then started to give them the power of choice during our lessons. Instead of telling what books they had to study for what day, I asked them what book they wanted. And this way, if they thought the book was boring, it wasn’t my fault- but theirs. It also gave them a sense of freedom which is quintessential to any adolescent. I remember when I was a kid, I hated it when adults bossed me around. I loved having my own choice and making my own decisions.
Also within the books, I gave them further choice by choosing which sections they wanted to read that day. Thus they would then flip through the pages left and right, looking for an interesting passage or picture they wanted to study for. And actually during workbook drills, I tried to make it as interactive as I could, by making them ask each other questions instead of me simply asking the questions. With them interacting with one another, they felt more compelled to answer the questions because they were not answering to a higher authority (me), but rather friends (one another).
And realizing that they are kids, I know that they love competition. So to make lessons even more fun, I would tell them that whoever finished a section first was the winner and would get an awesome prize at the end (a high five from me). When I first thought of the idea of giving a high five as a prize, I thought it was pretty lame, but the kids loved it. To give me the hardest high five they could muster was pretty empowering for them in a strange way. And after they got bored of my high fives, I said that the winner could choose the other of readings for the next section (which still has tons of efficacy even now).
Now this doesn’t apply just in the realm of teaching, it can be used at any place at anywhere. Put yourself in the shoes of your parent. If you want to stay out late, they might say no. You might feel frustrated and feel that they are just being dictators, but by putting yourself in their shoes, you can see how that they are just concerned for you. And by realizing that, you might be able to talk to your parents one-on-one about how you might be mature enough staying out late, and that they don’t need to worry, while arguing from their point-of-view. “I know that you love me and are worried of something bad happening to me when I stay out late at night, but don’t worry, I am an adult and I know how to take care of myself.”
So truly strive to put yourself in the shoes of others. I guarantee you that it will help out in terms of communication and understanding in your life.