It's not only important what we think, but also what and how others see things.
One the things, the folks that work with me frequently hear from me is "Let me put myself in the other person's shoes for a moment, and give you feedback on that."
We are what we are and not as our customers are, and while we may strive for excellence in customer service, our customers may have completely different notions of what that means.
For example, I may think a 24-hour turnaround on something is pretty good given everything on our plate, but when I imagine myself in the customer's shoes for a moment, I may change that expectation to "We need to get this done by noon today (or sooner)!"
People are different, our experiences, our cultures, our context and the way we interpret things.
So when it comes to work or family or even social issues, being compassionate often means seeing the world through someone else's eyes.
There was an interesting article in the New York Times called "Imaging The Lives Of Others" by psychologist, Paul Bloom.
While he notes the importance to "behold the universe through the eyes of another," he also says how difficult this really is.
If you haven't done something, how can you really imagine what it was like, let alone know what it was like for someone else to experience it?
Without the access to the particular significant life experience, the duration, the controls (so you can't just say stop like in an experiment), perhaps a person can never fully know what it's like.
For example, if you haven't been through a devastating war, can you truly know what it's like to be in a foxhole and have the bullets whooshing by your head and the tanks rumbling over it?
Yes, we can imagine, but that is probably a far cry!
Yet, to really empathize with others, do right by them, and to make good leadership decisions, we most certainly need to at least try to see and experience the world the way others do.
Thinking about the over 805 million hungry people in the world today, it is much more impactful to imagine myself hungry and starving, then just to say the mere fact that these poor people exist.
We can probably never know someone's else pain and suffering the way they do, but through our own experiences, extrapolation from them, and our imagination, we can at least try to elevate ourselves for a purely self-centric universe of one that is of billions (under one G-d), and who need our understanding, compassion, support, and help. ;-)
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)