Today, I was reminded of my street friend Travis. While I have never lived rough nor begged for money, I gained an appreciation and respect for this man from sitting beside him. As we huddled together on bone-chilling pavements in the depth of Melbourne winters and engaged in late-night conversation (where we agreed that what was said on the corner stayed on the corner), changed my view of the world. Instead of rushing past and glancing down at a street person, I was now on his level, looking up and out at the world.
Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, wrote, “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Gaining understanding from another’s point of view takes purposeful effort. It means discarding judgement and embracing acceptance. It means sitting at their level, stopping long enough and frequent enough to gain insight into their world: their patterns of feeling and thinking; their greatest joys and deepest challenges; how they approach life and work; what is meaningful to them.
The more I understood Travis, the more I could contribute to his world and, on the flip side, as he got to know me, he then provided insights and assistance to the challenges I was facing. It was a two-way street on one street’s pavement.
In over thirty years of coaching others, I consider this lesson in empathetic leadership to be one of the greatest realisations I have ever received. And I hope this small story does the same for you.
The original post about Travis can be found here.
Photo by Hamza NOUASRIA