In the shoes of…

By Vickie Harris

“What would you do if you were in my shoes?” is a question most us of have been asked at least once or twice in our lifetime but has anyone ever considered how powerful or thought provoking the question is?  Many times, we think it is easy to relate to someone’s situation or if given the opportunity we would have made a different decision; in reality this is not always the case.

Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and viewing situations from their perspective is something most design technologists do daily and here are some lessons learned.  

  1. First and foremost, even if it is a situation you have been in a hundred times, it is ALWAYS important to listen (or in some cases read).  Try to erase your memory of any past experiences or pre-judgement and look at the scenario with a clean slate.

2. Secondly, and just as importantly, ask questions.  Do not allow yourself to make assumptions. Even if the questions are just to clarify your understanding, it is important to ask them.

3. After a clear and unbiased understanding of the situation is achieved it is pertinent to review the information, gather any other facts and analyze the situation for what it is. 

These three steps will equip you with being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but that is only half the problem. If you have experience with the given situation, you may be able to think through the scenario and come to a conclusion. If you have no experience with the topic, you may find yourself at a loss. This is where you will need to expand your horizons and consider going straight to the source of any confusing scenario. 

Remembering the lessons described earlier, it is best to fully process the situation first. Then, finally approach the individual and ask to have a discussion with them on the topic. Frame the discussion as a learning objective for yourself rather than questioning their judgement. 

For example, let’s say you are working on a project and the Project Manager informs you the deadline has changed.  You will now need to deliver the drawings two weeks earlier than originally planned.  You may immediately think, “If I were in the PM shoes, I would have never agreed to that.”, but this is your internal bias kicking in.  Instead ask to have a quick chat with the PM and simply ask, “With respect to your experience as a Project Manager, I would like to understand why our deliverable deadline was shortened. I think this will help my understanding if this situation arises again in the future and will also allow me to meet the expectations needed from you.” This short little talk can give you insight to a side of the situation you were unaware of.  At the end of the day it is all about perspective and in order to truly be in that person’s shoes you have to see the situation from all perspectives. 

So why are we discussing thinking differently?  Currently our world is undergoing some unprecedented change and we are all being asked to think differently. We all need to understand how the changes we are encountering impacts the different roles and positions within our industry.  This and more will be some of the things we will touch on at the upcoming Design Technology Summit Online. REGISTER NOW and challenge yourself to think differently to become better in your job when faced with a variety of situations.

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