In this week’s episode, we’re talking about seeing through someone else’s eyes, rather than walking in their shoes. This is a valuable paradigm shift to consider when trying to learn more about the people in our lives. By considering people’s unique personalities, interests, and sensitivities, we can better understand their choices and avoid a lot of conflict and misunderstandings.
We hope today’s episode sparks some fun insights for you and we invite you to dive deeper with our Episode Questions. Join us on Instagram or YouTube to continue the conversation and share your reflections.
Let’s dig deep, challenge paradigms, choose connection, and live joyfully!
- Take a moment to think about a close friend or loved one. How would you describe their aspirations and goals, their strengths and weaknesses, and their interests and passions?
- Pick an issue or challenge you recently navigated with family or friends. What did it look like through your eyes? Now try to see it through the eyes of someone else who was involved. How does it look different? How does it look the same? Why?
- Remember a time you judged someone else about their choice or decision. Where did that judgment stem from? If you released that judgment and got more curious about why that choice made sense for them, how might things have played out differently?
- Let’s explore the story of you. What are your current aspirations and goals? Strengths and weaknesses? Interests and passions? How do they inform the day to day choices you make?
PAM: Hello and welcome to the Living Joyfully Podcast. We are thrilled you’re interested in exploring relationships with us, who we are in them, out of them, and what that means for how we move through the world.
And in today’s episode, we are going to talk about seeing through someone else’s eyes. This was another big paradigm shift for me in how I choose to be in relationship with others, because over the years, I have often heard the advice to walk in the other person’s shoes so that we can better understand them and what they’re experiencing.
But I discovered that, for me, that didn’t go quite far enough. So, I put myself in my partner’s shoes or my child’s shoes, see what challenges and constraints they were facing, and come up with what I thought was a great plan for moving forward. And then they didn’t agree. And I was like, “What? Why not? This is perfect!” I just didn’t understand why they wouldn’t follow my suggestions and I judged them negatively for their lack of cooperation. Like, “Let’s move through this, people! Here’s a great way to do it. You’re just being stubborn.” They must see how well my plan would work out.
So, when that wasn’t working, I dug into it more. And jumping off what we talked about last week about how different people are in so many ways, I realized that putting myself in someone else’s shoes meant that I was still using my experiences and perspectives, my ways of processing, and my preferred ways of engaging with the world. I was still filtering this new view of the world through the lenses that made sense to me.
I discovered that beyond walking in their shoes, I wanted to try seeing through their eyes. Oh my goodness! The picture is so much richer. It holds their experiences and preferences, how they prefer to process information, and how they prefer to engage with the world. It holds their aspirations and goals, their strengths and weaknesses, their interests and passions.
And their choices now made so much more sense to me, because I can see how they were the best choices for them. In the same situation, I, in their shoes, may well make a very different choice, but that is entirely because I’m me. Because people are different, when I want to connect with someone, when I want to more fully understand their experiences and support them as they move through their days, putting myself in their shoes isn’t as helpful as seeing it through their eyes.
ANNA: Oh my goodness. Yes! I really loved when I first heard you talking about this, because it really puts this very helpful visual on why my attempts at solving things for everybody falls a bit flat. And I love to solve things. And in my early days, my inclination was definitely to look at someone’s concern and set about finding a solution for them. And it was often rooted in how I would want to handle it, how would I want to move through it? But like you said, as soon as you start digging into this, really even at all, you see why it doesn’t work. And, as is so often the case, turning it around really helps me see why.
So, I have this close friend and she moves through the world in a very different way. She is a go-getter. She makes the call. She finishes the thing. She tells people what she needs in this very direct way. So, when I would share something with her, she would offer advice based on how she moves through the world and it would often just leave me feeling misunderstood, really. Disconnected.
It wasn’t that her ideas weren’t valid or even amazing, but they were not likely to work for me, because it just isn’t as easy for me to make that call to someone out of the blue or to be super direct about what I need from them. But when someone understands those pieces about me, they can help me find ways to get what I want that feel comfortable. Maybe there will be some stretching and that’s okay, but it’ll be grounded in who I am and give me the best chance of actually being able to do it and to solve the problem that’s in front of me to begin with.
So, that realization really helped me stop doing it to others. And instead, I focused on listening and learning and seeing through their eyes, helping them find ways that resonated with them and who they are and how they want to move through the world.
PAM: Yes. And I think it is really important to just note that seeing through someone else’s eyes is a skill that we get better with over time. We need to practice with releasing our lenses. Sometimes we’ve got lenses in there that we really don’t know that we have until we start pulling them away. And how can we not value our way of seeing it and being in the world as better? It goes back to last week’s episode. We’re all different, and that’s okay. One way isn’t better than the other, except that that’s our natural tendency to do it. So, it can be hard to just release that valuing, because it really is better for us.
And also, our relationships with our loved ones become more connected just because we come to better understand their aspirations and goals, their strengths and weaknesses, and their interests and passions, which means we can more accurately bring those aspects into the picture and vice versa. We are sharing ours and they learn more about us. It just takes time, doesn’t it? We always like to think, okay, this makes sense. I’m going to do this right now. Let’s go.
ANNA: Forever more! But it does take time and I think with everything, be gentle with ourselves as we figure it out. And do little steps, like starting with, “Well, this is how I might move through that.” Just that little qualification, being clear about that as opposed to saying, “I think you should do this,” which is sometimes where we go, but that’s a great start. That little qualification, “This is how I might move through that.” It leaves room for connection and learning more, because at that point, they can say, “I don’t think I could do that.” And then you’re able to learn more and have more of that conversation.
But dropping the judgment piece that you were just talking about, I think, is really the most important and sometimes the hardest. “Well, if they would just do it the way I want them to, it would be solved.” Well, if the “this” is not something that feels good to them, it won’t solve it and it actually will just leave the person feeling like there’s something wrong with them or that they’re completely misunderstood and it definitely can impact our connection and relationship. And there isn’t anything wrong with them. There isn’t only one way to do something. They just may not want to move through the world in the same way that I do.
So, we can let go of that judgment and commit to learning more about who they are and what feels best to them. Sharing our ideas, absolutely, but with this open, curious mindset that they might be seeing it in a very different way.
PAM: Yes. Exactly. This tool of seeing through their eyes, how it works, is also really helpful when we just want to understand a choice they’re making. Maybe they’re not looking for our input.
So, when we see a choice and it doesn’t make sense to us, maybe it’s not a choice we would ever make, but when we take a moment to see it through their eyes, all of a sudden it can make so much more sense.
And, that said, sometimes no matter how hard we try to see through their eyes, we just don’t understand why they want to do the thing they want to do. So, in those moments, what works for me is leaning on my understanding again, that people are different. And not taking things personally, like we talked about. They’re not making this choice to piss me off. They’re making it because it makes sense to them.
So, that helps me move through any judgment of them that I might be feeling, and instead get curious. Because judgment is not only disconnecting, it’s often a clue that I’m just missing something. So, I might ask more questions to try to better understand and absolutely, sometimes that helps. Sometimes I was just missing this little piece. It’s like, oh, yeah, okay. Yeah, that makes sense.
Sometimes they can’t explain things in a way though that makes sense to us. That again, doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. I can choose to trust them to make their own decisions, and we will all learn more as things unfold over time. That is beautiful. When we see how things unfold, when we see their next step and their next step, we see a bigger picture of what’s happening.
And if things do go a bit sideways for them, when I’m not bringing that judgmental energy of, “I told you so. I had a better idea,” when we’re not bringing that to the conversation, we can support them as they tweak their path over time to get where they want to go.
Or maybe I discover a new aspect of them that I didn’t know about. Maybe it’s a new aspiration that’s been bubbling up. Maybe it’s a fear, a new interest, a sensitivity, like we talked about before, that may be developing.
So, when we’re open and curious about the people that we’re in relationship with, we all grow and learn and change alongside each other, which is so much more connecting and fun than trying to coax and control each other to do what we think is best.
ANNA: So much yes. My goal is connection and part of that is understanding these differences and not only learning to understand, but the next step is really celebrating. And when we can celebrate even when we don’t fully understand, that makes such a difference. The world is richer for us all playing to our strengths and supporting one another to do that. This is especially true for the people we are choosing to share our life with. But, I mean, for me, it really goes for all people.
It’s back to that generous assumption and cultivating an open, curious mindset, so that we can begin to understand why people are seeing the world differently. Why are they choosing differently? And knowing that those different ways of seeing and doing are not attacks on our way of seeing and doing. Both can and do exist. And to be in relationship with someone, celebrating that instead of judging helps us avoid conflicts and misunderstanding, and it really deepens that trust and bond we have with each other, because we feel deeply understood, which is so important to us as humans, often.
PAM: So much. Just take a moment to sink into that and just feel, somebody knowing us to that level, which also includes us knowing ourselves. We kind of need to get there ourselves before we can even share those pieces of information with others. But, as you said, it does help us avoid so much conflict and misunderstanding and taking things personally and judging others and having expectations of others, and instead, deepens our connection, deepens our trust, deepens that whole bond that we have, within our whole family.
And then, as you said, it’s our choice how deep and strong a relationship we want with anybody who passes through our lives. So many of these tools are also useful, at least I have found, in my extended relationships as well.
So, here are some questions that you might want to ponder as you explore this really fun difference between walking in someone’s shoes and seeing through their eyes. So, the first one is, take a moment to think about a close friend or a loved one. How would you describe their aspirations and goals, their strengths and weaknesses, and their interests and passions? It’s really fun to do that. And then, you know what? It might be really fun to check in with them. And say, “Hey, this is what I’m thinking. This is how I’m seeing you. What have I nailed? What have I maybe gone a little sideways on?” It could spark a really, really fun conversation.
ANNA: Yeah. I think that’s a great conversation.
PAM: Yeah. Especially when we just come at it that way, rather than it coming out after a conflict or around a conflict or something. There is no energy and judgment in the air. It’s just like, let’s have this fun conversation. Okay. Next.
Pick an issue or challenge that you recently navigated with family or friends. What did it look like through your eyes? Now try to see it through the eyes of someone else who was involved. How does it look different? How does it look the same? Why do you think that is? Just start playing with that, as well. Where are the the places where you see the same things and where might we see things differently? And then maybe play it through a little bit more, like the choices that people made throughout whatever issue or challenge it was, do they make more sense to you now that you’re looking at it through their eyes?
ANNA: I think what happens when we do this piece, where we step back and go, how are they seeing it? It takes some of the charge out of it, because when we are only seeing through our eyes, we’re bulldozing down the tunnel to get to our end point. But when we step back and go, oh my gosh, I can see how they’re seeing that in a really different way, suddenly, the charge comes out of it and we can get on the same team. We can go, okay, I’m seeing it this way. You’re seeing it that way. Let’s talk about that. It just changes that whole dynamic of the head butting that can happen, you know?
PAM: Yeah. And just think how that helps everyone involved feel seen and heard, no matter what the end path is. When we recognize how other people are experiencing it, that can be so valuable. All right, next.
Remember a time you judged someone else about their choice or decision, and now let’s do a thought experiment with that. Where did that judgment stem from? If you released that judgment and got more curious about why that choice made sense for them, how might things have played out differently? One thing that’s important for us and why that playful attitude helps is it’s not valuable for us to judge our past actions and thoughts. We’re learning more now. We’re playing with things now. The stuff that we’re figuring out, we can bring with us into future encounters, future engagements, conflicts, choices, all those pieces.
So we can, in our own thought experiments, play around with anything. It’s okay that, man, I felt really judgey about that person that day or this thing that I saw. Maybe I know nobody who was involved, but it’s worth it to think, okay, where did that judgment come from? What does that mean for me? Why is that important to me? All those pieces can be really helpful for understanding ourselves and for making maybe different choices as we move forward.
ANNA: Right. That’s what I was going to say. I think when we play around with some of these ones in the past, again, this is not to judge how we handled something in the past. This is not to make ourselves feel bad. But it’s giving us a chance in a lower charged environment to look at that. And I think when we recognize where the judgment came in and recognize how it maybe didn’t serve us in that situation, when we feel it bubbling up when something comes up ahead of us, we can go, oh, okay, this judgment, do I want to look into this now? Do I want to dig back and peel some layers back now? And so, I think that practice can help us actually help in the moment or the things that are to come.
PAM: Exactly. And lastly, let’s explore the story of you. What are your current aspirations and goal, strengths and weaknesses, interests and passions? How do they inform the day-to-day choices you make? I think sometimes we can kind of disconnect. We can think of these big things like, what are my goals? What are my strengths? How do I like to do things? What are my passions? And yet, we don’t bring those down into our day-to-day. Or we don’t make the connection. They may be subconsciously directing our choices throughout the day, because our mind knows these are the things that we value.
But when we can recognize that, we can also notice that we’re making more progress than we think towards our goal, et cetera. So, understanding how all those pieces weave together can be so valuable for ourselves. So, it’s absolutely helpful to do this.
ANNA: Yeah, and I think, too, it kind of reminds me of the priorities episode, too, with that intentionality we’re bringing it, but I think what I really want to say about this question, and we’ll keep talking about this, we need to develop our own self-awareness in order to be able to communicate with our partners. So, in order to be able to say what’s important to us and what we’re doing so that they can understand, because none of us are mind readers. So, this work of really digging into, what am I excited about? What’s making me tick? How am I looking at these things? is so valuable on so many layers for us and for those in our lives.
PAM: Exactly. Yes. We hope you have so much fun with these questions and we would be happy to carry on the conversation, whether you want to comment on YouTube, whether you want to comment on Instagram. We would love to hear some of your processing through these questions if you’d like to share. And thank you so much for listening, and we will see you next time. Bye!