Put Yourself in Her Shoes
Even if they’re the wrong size.
I really, really, really shouldn’t begin a book of 10 or more chapters by saying that this, if you can master it, is the only chapter that matters.
I dare say (and usually when I say, “I dare say,” I know I’m heading into trouble), but since I’ve already dared myself I might as well get on with it.
I dare say that if you can learn to put yourself in the shoes of another you will have stumbled upon the treasure of meaningful, long-lasting, deep and glorious joy.
If you’re a teenager reading this and you just came across the line “deep and glorious joy,” you might not even be reading this line here because you gagged and rolled your eyes and figured that this book was going to go way off the deep end. If “off the deep end” is your analysis, you’re on track to understanding and connecting with a greater future (and while we’re at it, present) self.
Now let’s get back to those shoes.
By the way, I’m going to say her because I have two sons and I want them to think in terms of her although please feel free to mix and match any pronouns so they best fit you. Enough with all of the fanfare, let’s get down to business.
In case the metaphor isn’t quite clear enough in your thinking of trying to put your big feet inside of her shoes, let me explain.
It’s extremely easy and painless and effortless to think what you are thinking. We do it all day every day. We think, we think for ourselves.
Here’s where it gets a little more complicated.
In putting yourself in her shoes think of rather putting your mind in her mind. Think of your thoughts inside of her head if this is easier.
Imagine a ghost version of yourself leaving your body and becoming her. I know, weird. But stay with me.
Now that you’re inside of her head, in her heart, in her body, see things from her perspective. Look over, out of her eyes, at you.
What does she want from you? What might she hope you do? For her?
Let’s take a ridiculously simplified example.
Ridiculously Simple Example
The two of you are walking down the sidewalk together. The “Old You” would think about what you’re thinking. In other words:
- Why are we walking? Where are we going anyway? Are we there yet? This is taking forever.
- My phone is old. I really need a new one. How am I going to get my dad to get me the latest? I have the oldest model on the planet. I bet they don’t even have this model anymore.
- My foot hurts. Maybe from basketball practice. Maybe I shouldn’t go tomorrow.
That’s you: the teenage boy.
Here’s what she’s thinking:
- It’s warmer than I thought it would be today. My dress is too thick. I should have worn a lighter dress.
- Does he really like me? Or does he like the “idea” of me? How can I figure this out?
- I have to get home to study because next week I have a biology exam and this weekend we’re going away and I’m not going to have time to study on Monday because I have hockey practice so I better get going home soon.
Editor’s Note: I completely realize that #3 from the female perspective is far beyond what any male teenage brain is capable of. Such complex and intricate thought and extrapolation of the time/space continuum and linear time and how present actions disproportionately affect future consequences. I get it. But you’re just going to have to go with me on this one.
The “New and Improved You” might not immediately have the brain power to see her thoughts and wishes exactly, so you might translate them something like this. Through the use of your new superpower (that is, You In Her Shoes or YIHS, rhymes with YES), you will be able to get much of what she’s thinking. But it’s a bit like a radio station that’s not quite coming in clearly. No, bad example. It’s like a movie in 3D but you don’t have your 3D glasses. You’re only going to get bits and pieces of it and it’s a bit blurry.
Here’s what you’ll download from her mind:
- It’s warm. Her dress is beautiful.
- You do like her.
- She needs to go soon.
Using the YIHS calculator (we’ll provide the device when they’re out of beta production), you will now be able to put You In Her Shoes and you will come up with the following question that will dazzle her, surprise her, and pretty much guarantee that she’ll know “you’re different from the other boys” and will love you deeply from this day forward until the end of time–or at least until next month, whichever comes sooner.
The “New You” says this:
“Whew, it’s warm. Would you like to get an ice cream? I’m buying.”
I’m going to skip ahead to the more advanced levels of inter-neuron communication (we’ll cover this in a later course) and, spoiler alert, when you’re at that level, you’ll actually say:
“Hey Charlotte, I know you have to get home soon because you have that biology text next week. but would you like to get an ice cream? I’m buying. By the way, that dress looks great on you and it might get cooler later so it’s good that it’s a little warmer.”
Don’t be discouraged. When you employ the YIHS tactics, this will become as easy and common for you as eating more pizza is today. But this is the basics: you in her head, her thoughts. You think of what she might be thinking and then act on it.
Here’s a little bonus tip: this tactic works not only on girls, but on friends, teachers, world leaders, strangers, and, yes, even your parents.
You have now been granted the power. Use it wisely, but use it.
Notes from later on about stage performance
The entire “theater production” of this talk came to me clearly this morning. Here goes a whirlwind of notes.
As if I saw it on stage, it was all there, complete with director comments and props.
This is probably not in the slightest related, but I woke up at 2:30 AM after a vivid dream of some kind of insect, I think they’re called twig bugs or stick insects, pulled a lizard (?) of out the mouth of someone but the lizard (more like a gecko) was inside the mouth of a very small and thin alligator. They call came out of the mouth, walked towards the door and then hopped into the bushes nearby. From there, they all walked, with exactly the same gait, up the bushes and out of sight. Yeah, so that happened. It’s now 4:30.
Meta note: I want to film/record this today and get a draft to Sangbreeta.
I start off either by laying 4 or 5 pairs of shoes in a line at the back of the stage. They are facing forward, towards the audience. Or they are already there and I make it part of the act.
I sit down on a chair and start to undo the laces of my own shoes. Slowly. As I’m doing this, I talk, partly looking at my shoes, occasionally looking up.
I’m wondering whether or not to speak as if I’m talking (the entire time) to my son. We’ll see …
BTC: “Put myself in her shoes?” (speaking as a teenager in a wondering, confused voice, see note below about Trevor Noah) “Put myself in her shoes? How am I supposed to do that?”
Look up to the audience.
BTC: My son didn’t get it. Shoes, her shoes, foot sizes. It just didn’t make any sense. The thing is, this is part of a ten-part series on Tips for your Teenager or maybe “What I Wish I Knew When I Was Thirteen.” Here’s the part I shouldn’t tell my teenager, or then again, maybe I should. If he can get this part right, if he can put himself in her shoes, if he can learn to put himself in the shoes of someone else, he can pretty well skip the other nine tips. This is really the only one he needs. This is really the only one anyone needs.
BTC: (as son, I’m envisioning the voice that Trevor Noah does when he does white males) “Well, dad, this whole Ten Tips for Your Teenager is going really well if you tell me I don’t really need to know the other nine.”
I walk over to the first pair of shoes. I stand behind them. They are (somehow) the shoes of a teenage girl. His girlfriend. She speaks.
BTC: Oh isn’t it a beautiful night out? The stars are out and it’s so warm. What could we do to cool off?
BTC: Whispers to audience, “Put yourself in her shoes.”
BTC: (as son) “Well, gee, uh, we could go inside and play some Call of Duty 4 … ”
BTC: (as father, maybe I need to move around the stage, maybe behind the different shoes) “OK, son, those are your thoughts, your shoes. What might she be thinking?”
BTC: (as son) “Dad, she likes playing Call of Duty 4 … ”
BTC: (as father) “She’s warm, what might she like to do? Maybe something to eat?”
BTC: (as son) “Ice cream?”
BTC: (as father) “Excellent!”
BTC: (as girlfriend) “Ooh, wow, Liam, that was so sweet of you to get an ice cream. You must have read my mind and really care about me.”
BTC: (as dad) “See how easy that was, son?”
BTC: (as son) “Easy? That wasn’t easy.”
BTC: (as father) “Let’s move on.”
I walk over to the next pair of shoes. Somehow, they are the shoes of a teacher.
BTC: Here’s your teacher.
LTC: He has really ugly shoes.
BTC: It doesn’t matter what they look like, it’s how they feel when you put them on.
LTC: I’m not putting those on.
BTC: Work with me.
BTC: (as teacher) “Here’s the assignment for math today. We’re working on the power of compound interest and exponential functions.”
BTC: OK, what is he thinking?
LTC: Uh, about numbers and exponential something.
BTC: What does he want from you?
LTC: Uh, to get the right answer?
BTC: Well, yes, that too, but what he really wants is for you to be curious, interested, at least a little bit interested in how it works.
LTC: But I don’t know anything about compound interest and exponential whatever-he-said.
BTC: Exactly! And he knows that. He doesn’t care about what you know. He cares about what you’ll learn–and he wants to help you learn. He wants to impart a tiny bit of knowledge onto you.
LTC: That’s great, dad, but I don’t know how to put myself in his shoes.
BTC: If his goal is for you to learn, how can you show him that you want to learn?
LTC: Ask him a question?
BTC: That’s it! Ask him a question! That’s all you have to do.
LTC: But I don’t know anything about compound interest enough to ask a question.
BTC: Then ask that question. Watch what happens.
LTC: (to teacher) Uh, Mr. Veldhuijzen, I don’t really understand compound interest. Could you give us an example of how that applies to the real world?
BTC: (as teacher, wipes tear from eye, clearly emotional and overjoyed) Well, Liam, I’d be more than happy to. I’m so glad you asked. Now let me show you how that four Euros in your pocket will magically turn into forty Euros and then into four hundred Euros. Ready?
LTC: Wow, all I had to do was ask and he’s going to make me rich?
BTC: It’s magical, isn’t it?
LTC: This is kind of fun.
They walk to the next pair of shoes.
BTC: This is your future boss. She’s a jerk. She only thinks of herself and her goal in life is to make you miserable and remind you that you are inferior to her and keep you in your place.
LTC: I don’t want to be in her shoes.
BTC: Me either. But you’ll have bosses like this and if you can understand where they’re coming from, it will make your life easier.
LTC: Maybe she just needs to be complimented on how brilliant she is on a regular basis.
BTC: That’s it! You’re learning!
We move on to the next pair of shoes.
Maybe an old, ratty pair.
LTC: Who’s this guy?
BTC: Someone in a country far away from what you know. He’s very different from you. You know nothing about his life.
LTC: How can I put myself in his shoes?
BTC: Travel the world. Meet people. Ask them questions. Look at their shoes.
BTC: (in angry voice, accented) Put yourself in my shoes, my friend. You will not fit. I barely have shoes. You will never understand.
LTC: He’s very angry.
BTC: Yep. Find out why. Ask him.
They walk to the next shoes.
LTC: Who’s are these?
BTC: Your mother’s.
BTC: (as mother) Now, son, did you get your lunch? How did the math test go yesterday? What was it about, again? Compound interest or something? You have a dentist’s appointment this afternoon, don’t forget.
LTC: What does she want?
BTC: What do you think?
LTC: To pester me forever.
BTC: (Smiles, waits.) Put yourself in her shoes.
LTC: (pauses, thinks) She just wants what’s best for me. (pause) She really just loves me.
BTC: You’re getting the hang of this.
LTC: It’s not that hard.
BTC: It’s not.
LTC: So what’s the big deal?
BTC: You have to put yourself in her mind, in her heart.
LTC: Is that all?
BTC: That’s all.
LTC: That’s all I have to do? Put myself in someone else’s shoes?
BTC: That’s all you have to do.
LTC: I can forget the other nine?
BTC: You can forget the other nine.
BTC: What are you doing?
LTC: I’m putting myself in your shoes.
BTC: Oh, really? What’s in my mind? What’s in my heart?
LTC: (pauses) You want me to do the other nine, too.
(pan back to me, smile, out)