Byron's Babbles

Only The Wearer Knows

I love the work of Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. In the sixth edition of Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em they taught us to “Ask so you don’t have to guess.” I quote them on this in my leadership development work all the time. I had a participant in one of my programs this week say, “Byron, that is one of the simplest, yet extremely profound things you have shared.” She went on, “Now, anytime I catch myself even beginning to guess, I just ask.” This and other things going on right now, particularly in the world of our teachers, makes me worried we just aren’t doing the simple things.

I had another teacher say, “Byron it was huge that you put your hand on my shoulder and said, “How are you really doing?” She continued, “It was huge to be asked that by someone who I knew really did care what the answer was and would try to help if he could.” Then she finished with, “Ive not been asked anything like that in over two years.” Wow! Once again, we need to make sure we are doing the simple things. But really these are not simple things they are huge things that don’t cost anything to do. But (another but here) we have to be willing to act on what we hear.

We need to be asking because as Robert A. Heinlein wrote in Stranger In A Strange Land, “Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.” We need to remember to ask because sometimes all we have is cognitive empathy – we only have the ability to understand another person’s perspective. If we’ve not been directly afflicted by the same source of pain or unhappiness we can’t truly truly understand the needs of the person experiencing it. Therefore, we need to ask what the person needs, not guess. Why? Because only the person involved in something can identify the source of some trouble or associated stress.

I know that sometimes it is hard for us to ask or for the affected person to tell us, but this brings up the linchpin to all of this – relationships. It’s amazing that in every discussion about great leaders and those that have had a profound influence on is that relationship building always comes up. If we have the relationship we can then ask like T.C. did to Rick in the latest episode of Magnum P.I. when he said, “Can I ask how you’re doing?” That shows a real desire to understand where the wearer’s show is pinching.

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