By putting yourself in the other person’s shoes you can often give yourself a whole new perspective of a situation that changes your approach and helps produce better outcomes.
Often when coaching individuals, there are situations involving other people. A favourite is people who don’t seem to understand what they should do or are not responding in the desired way. Basically things are not working!
An exercise I will sometime use to great effect is called the three chair exercise. Once the person has finished telling their side of the story, I will get them to stand up and sit in another chair opposite to where they were sitting before and I ask a few simple questions:
Examples of answers are – they think that here we go again, whats the point nothing ever changes; I don’t agree with this, but if that’s what they want fine, they never ask my opinion anyway. They might see aggression, uncertainty, something being hidden. In terms of feelings, it can be a mixture of fear, anger and frustration amongst many.
I then move the person being coached into the third chair and get them to observe from a neutral position and ask what do they see, what is happening?
At this point, the new view or perception of the situation is formed, sometimes it can be like a bolt of lightening striking, sometimes it is a bit more subtle, but there is a new view. From this, different ways to approach the situation are developed.
When wrapping up the session what is the big take away? To step into other peoples’ shoes, see things from their side and actually ask them how they see it.
Deep down we all know this, but we often fail to do it. I hope this is a useful reminder for you. I have also done this with executive teams, physically moving them as a group to a different position, putting them in their employees shoes and asking them what they see – it is a very powerful exercise!
I recommend the book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler to anyone wanting to improve how they talk with people to create successful dialogue and what the authors call a “pool of shared meaning”.