When attempting to be empathic, you will probably say: “Walk a mile in their shoes!”

You think that by putting yourself in the other person’s “shoes”, by imagining what it would be like to be in that situation or that life, you will have empathy, sympathy and understanding.

You think that you will respect them more.  Be better able to help or give advice.

But there is a problem with walking in someone else’s imaginary “shoes”.

Do you see what it might be?

It might be the other person’s shoes, but YOU are still wearing them.

Your views and attitudes will be tainted by your experiences, values, education and upbringing.

You might think to yourself “Well, this is what they should do” when you really mean “This is what I would do”.

If you really want to help or support someone, don’t walk a mile in their shoes.


Take yourself completely out of the picture.  Erase everything.

Then imagine being that person, living that life…..seeing what they have seen.

Without judgement.

What kind of family life and childhood did they have?  How did they do in school?  Did they have struggles or challenges?

Imagine how you would be completely different…….if you had lived their life instead of yours.

See their pain and their joy.

Their strengths and limitations.

See the decisions they made and understand why.

Imagine yourself looking out from their eyes…..what do they see on a daily basis when they look out into the world, or into a mirror?

How does the world look back at them?

Now you are starting to understand empathy.

You will begin to understand how you can really help them, where they are right now in their lives.

Instead of saying “Why don’t you just go out there and get a job?” you might see the bigger challenges and realities of the situation.

You might end up saying “Let’s try and figure out what jobs might suit you, something that you can keep for awhile – so you can get back on your feet.  How can I help?”

Do you see the difference?

True empathy takes a bit more work.

But when you figure it out, you can really make a difference and help someone else.

Then you can walk on the same path together…..each in your own shoes.