Steppin in someone else's shoes

 

 

People often use phrases such as, “You can’t understand until you have walked a mile in their shoes” and “Before you judge, step into her shoes.” These sayings were likely derived from the phrase “step into someone’s shoes,” which means to take on a particular role that someone else has been doing.

 

In this case, it means to live the other person’s life or to connect with them in a way that you truly understand what has been going on in their life. The idea is to be empathetic to the person. This is never as easy as one might make it out to be because no two people’s experience is the same.

 

Differences

 

Two people that have lost a partner may react differently to that loss. One person may have died suddenly, while another died after years of illness. These two situations are very different. The partner will grieve in both cases, but in the case of the person who dies after a long illness, much of the grieving may have occurred before the actual death.

 

Even two people that are going through very similar losses will grieve differently. One person may grieve over a couple of months while another one may grieve for a year. Additionally, people’s grieving may take different forms. One person may need to surround themselves with friends and family. They may talk a lot about the person that has passed. The other person may grieve very privately needing space and alone time.

 

Empathy

 

Thus, when we put ourselves in their shoes, it is not good enough to have general empathy for the person. It is important to take it a step further. We must listen and try to understand what that person specifically is going through. Additionally, we must be extremely careful not to put our experiences or beliefs on others.

 

For example, if a person has had a loss and grieved deeply and inwardly for months, they shouldn’t believe that they are showing empathy for someone else if they encourage them to be alone and out of the social network. If they do and the other person is the type of person that needs to be out with friends to heal, they are not showing empathy at all despite their good intentions.

 

Truly In The Person’s Shoes

 

This example can be extrapolated to infinite scenarios. It is important to allow people to speak for themselves and express what they are going through. Then, people can support them in their situation. People should not, however, assume they understand what any specific individual or group is going through.

 

 

This is why it is important to give individuals and groups a voice rather than speaking for them. Even when people try to advocate for others with the absolute best of intentions, they are bound to get it wrong. They are advocating a story that they have created rather than the real story. Sometimes those stories overlap considerably; sometimes they don’t.

 

It is only by listening to others and their personal journey that we can have true empathy for them. Attempts at empathy are better than none, but does not stand up to true empathy, which is gained only by connecting to the person and their story.

 

Social Media

 

 

Social media usage has risen dramatically over the last decade. In 2018, Pew Research stated that 68% of adults in the U.S. use Facebook. * A lower percentage of adult Americans use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Snapchat than Facebook. However, none of the platforms dips below 20% and the total numbers are quite significant although even considering overlap of usage between apps.

 

The reason for the rise in social media usage is a combination of general industry growth, desire to connect, business demands, and a desire for attention. The industry has grown as new platforms evolved – each with its own focus and its own attraction to various age groups and types of businesses.

 

Desire To Connect

 

The initial boom in social media – and what keeps it going – is the desire for people to connect. Although you can know what is happening around the world almost instantaneously, people are not as connected to those around them as they were 100 or even 50 years ago. Thus, people turn to social media to (re-)connect with their family and friends that are often spread around the world.

 

People also join groups of like-minded people to discuss issues that are relevant to them, such as, parenting, hiking, or genealogy. Thus, people connect with new people and often receive support for the challenges that they are facing in life.

 

Business

 

As these platforms have grown, businesses have turned to them as a way to connect to their clients. They utilize these platforms for advertising, event announcements, and client engagement. They have replaced some of the traditional marketing methods and are especially important in the coveted 18-49 market, as they are the highest users of social media. It has also allowed businesses to expand their client base in new ways.

 

Desire For Attention

 

For some people, however, the use of social media isn’t really to connect with anyone. It is simply to draw attention to themselves. They use it to dramatize their life or a life that they choose to portray. Often, they play on people’s emotions, gaining attention from people they don’t even know. One must assume that they are starved for attention in real life. Thus, they create a more exciting or dramatic life online by making sure that people notice them. As a result, they gain the attention that they desire.

 

Cause Disruption

 

Some of these attention seekers take it a step further. They purposefully attempt to anger people and create arguments. These trolls never provide real facts and are quick to make highly judgmental statements. If those don’t create enough rage, they will turn to name calling and personal attacks. These trolls gain attention for themselves, but the joy they get is in seeing other people angry. Nothing makes them go away quicker than a calm, logical response where you completely ignore their inflammatory statements.

 

As you can see, there are good, bad, and ugly aspects of social media. It is important to prop up the good. The rest is something that we all have to work together to overcome. Thus, the next time you see an inflammatory statement or post consider what is going to create a positive outcome. If we could make everything on social media positive for even one day, it could change the world!

 

 

*https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/

 

Embracing Differences

 

 

In our previous article “Unique Individuals,” we discussed how the differences in talents, abilities, circumstances, interests, and personalities make individuals unique and how that is beneficial to society.

 

In this article, we will take a look at what it means to truly embrace the differences in people. All the differences previously mentioned must be fully embraced plus differences in body styles, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, choice of food, and even political beliefs.

 

This means far more than saying that you are open and that you respect diversity. It actually means walking the walk, which is more complicated than most people realize.

 

It’s Not Easy

 

Truly embracing differences means respecting other people’s rights to believe, say and do whatever they authentically believe within the constraints of the law. It becomes complicated, however, when beliefs clash. In this case, we must be very careful not to say that one person’s right is more important than another person’s right, which happens frequently in today’s society.

 

Right And Wrong

 

Although a given belief might be more or less accepted by society, doesn’t mean that the other person doesn’t have a right to have the opposite belief. Neither belief, however, should be used to threaten or harm others. Even those that hold the most accepted beliefs are in the wrong when they try to use their beliefs to harm others.

 

Likewise, suppression of opinion is against the foundation of our country. It may seem like the right thing to do to keep unpopular or negative opinions quiet. However, this is not only against our governing rules, but also sets a very dangerous precedent. The problem is that once suppression of voices is allowed, other voices may be suppressed. And, one day . . . that voice may be yours!

 

Truly Embracing Diversity

 

Thus, it is critically important to be open to allowing people to express their opinions. That, however, is only one step toward truly embracing all people.  To truly value diversity, you must also listen to opposing beliefs and opinions with the mindset of seeking to understand.*  

 

Sometimes you have to look past negativity or roughness of presentation to understand the other person’s perspective. This can be a considerable amount of work. However, without this effort, a person cannot truly understand the other person’s perspective. Thus, they cannot legitimately speak out against that person or the person’s ideas.

 

The bottom line is that it is important that we truly seek to understand opposing beliefs, opinions, and life circumstances. It is through this understanding that we grow as individuals and as a society.

 

* Concept by Stephen Covey . . . Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

 

 

unique individuals

 

 

Each of us is unique. We have various talents and abilities. How we use these is often tied to our personality, circumstances, and other interests. Thus, the same talents and abilities may manifest very differently for different people.

 

An Example

 

A simple example can be defined by considering two people who are very good with science and technology. One may really enjoy spending time alone and diving deep into a topic. That person may become a researcher or a technical expert in a specific field. Meanwhile, another person who is equally capable loves working with other people. The second person may select to be on a team project or lead a research project at a university.

 

Likewise, a third person may be very good with science and technology, but hasn’t attended college due to lack of opportunity or simply choice. In this case, a person who has the same talents may not have all the same knowledge. Alternately, they may have the same knowledge, but not the same credentials. This person may work as a science technician or research assistant.

 

Benefits

 

Talents, abilities, interests, circumstances, and personality add together in a way that makes every person unique. If this were not true, life on this planet would be a very different existence. Things would have to change because otherwise there would be roles that would go unfilled. In the same light, life would be boring because everybody with a given talent would be the same.

 

I try to imagine what it would be like if all singers sang exactly the same and had the exact same taste in music. How boring would that be?

 

Likewise, what if everyone who was outgoing wanted to lead the exact same organization? You would have far too many leaders for one organization and none for another.

 

Thus, it is so very important that we maintain the uniqueness of the people in our society. It is through that uniqueness that we thrive!

 

In the next article “Embracing Differences,” we will discuss what it really means to embrace differences in people. It may not be as simple as you think.

 

who is judging whom

 

In our previous article “Behind the Façade,” we discussed how people often hide their authentic self. This article will further investigate those who changed their façade based on their judgment of other people’s judgment of themselves.

 

When people become focused on how they believe others are judging them, they give away their personal power. Often the other person doesn’t even know that they have been given this power because they aren’t actually judging the person and may not have even noticed them.

 

Questions

 

When someone tells me that someone else is judging them, I typically ask a few questions. My first response generally is, “Why do you care?” In some cases, the answer to this question is obvious. However, in the case of a stranger or acquaintance who is not closely connected to the person, the answer is less clear.

 

Another question I ask is, “What made you jump to the conclusion that they are judging you?” The answer to this question is rarely satisfactory to me. It is something they perceive, but is often not tangible.

 

Who Is Doing The Judging?

 

In reality, if the other person has not directly stated a judgment, these people are judging the other person. However, I don’t believe most are aware of their own judgment.   It is in some ways a self-judgment and in other ways a judgment of the other person. It is possible that they believe they should look or act a certain way, but instead of owning it, they project it onto someone else. Alternately, they are judging the other person as someone who believes others should look and act a certain way.

 

For these people that see themselves through the eyes of others, I have to wonder how their life would change if they stopped projecting their judgment onto others.  It would clearly change. We must stay somewhat within cultural norms. Yet, at some point we need to be our true selves and not define our value on how we believe others perceive us.

 

So, when you start to believe that others are judging you then question yourself, “Are they really judging me, or am I judging them?”

 

found now what

 

In the previous article “The Search,” I discussed the roller coaster ride of searching for birth parents. In this article that concludes the 3-part series, I will discuss connecting to birth families and the associated emotions.

 

Emotions All Around

 

When a person finally identifies their birth parent, they can be overcome with emotion. Emotions range from excitement to guilt to fear. Thus, taking that step to contact the birth parent (or even a half/full sibling) can be overwhelming.

 

It is impossible to know how the birth parent is going to react. Thoughts that people often have when contacting birth parents include: Will they accept me or reject me? Does their spouse/kids know about me? Are they a good person? What if they aren’t a good person? And, in the case of fathers . . . Does he even know about me?

 

All of these thoughts and concerns are valid. Some birth parents welcome their long lost children with open arms. These are the stories that keep people searching. The mother (and in some cases the father, too) that tells the person that they have been thinking about them every day and hoping they would find them often lead to amazing connections.

 

When Things Don’t Go Well

 

Other birth parents are not nearly as welcoming. They would like their “secret” to stay “secret.” In some of these cases there are extenuating circumstances and painful memories involved. Therefore, it is understandable. However, it is no easier on the person who is searching for their birth parent.

 

In many cases, however, these people have some image that they are trying to protect and have not told their spouse or children about the other child. In the worst of these cases, the biological parent threatens legal action against the person if they contact them or other family members. Although legal action may not be possible, clearly connections with the family are going to be limited.

 

In other cases, the people are simply being cautious. They are fearful of people taking advantage of them. Alternately, they are trying to protect their estate for their family.

 

Some of these people will come around. Other times, the parent’s other children are willing to build a relationship despite the parent’s concerns. However, these relationships are not the same as being fully included in the family.

 

Clueless

 

Of course, there are those that have no idea what the person is talking about. It is understandable for fathers that never knew about the pregnancy. However, it also includes mothers that claim to have zero memory of having a child. It also includes mothers and fathers that don’t claim to know each other despite what the DNA says.

 

In some of the cases, the parents stick to the story that the DNA is lying. It is hard to connect with them when they won’t acknowledge that you could even be their child. However, some of these cases, particularly fathers that never knew they fathered a child, eventually lead to strong connections.

 

Emotional Roller Coaster

 

Even when the birth parent(s) is found and starts to build a connection, the person should continue to expect a roller coaster of emotions. Some people report that they connect immediately. Meanwhile, others have a complete distaste for the biological parent. Even those that connect immediately and have a growing relationship often find that things don’t go as well after the honeymoon period.

 

Family drama is another emotional challenge for adoptees. It is rare to find a family without some drama and if there have been secrets, there is bound to be more!

 

Family connections are always interesting, especially when one or more people that are not their biological parents have raised a person.

 

family connections

 

 

As a genealogist, I have become involved in helping people find their birth parents. It is always an interesting journey and although there are various common scenarios, each journey is unique.

 

The Reactions

 

Some people who have found out that one or both of their parents aren’t who they thought they were express no interest in identifying and meeting their biological parents. These people usually feel a strong connection with the parents that raised them. Often their perspective is that there is no need to find out who their biological parents are given that they will always consider the parents that raised them as mom and dad.

 

Other people report always feeling like they were adopted or never believing that their dad was their biological father. These people are not at all surprised when a DNA test reveals that their intuition was correct. Many of them report feeling disconnected or like something was missing in the relationship.

 

Other people fit somewhere in between these two perspectives. Some are surprised, but embrace the possibility of connecting with more family. These people still view their parents as their parents, but are open to learning more about themselves and their roots. Some people that fall into this category are people who grew up as only children. They are excited at the prospect of finding siblings.

 

Another reaction is to feel lost and/or angry. In these cases, people feel as if they no longer know who they are. For these people, learning that one or both parents who raised them are not their biological parents is devastating. It can take time and professional counseling to get through this very personal crisis.

 

Connected?

 

To me, it appears that some people sense the lack of connection all their lives. But, others want what is comfortable or desire a connection with the parents that raised them so much that they fear knowing about their biological parents. Yet others are comfortable with any and all connections. It is a very personal situation and is unique to that person.

 

If you are going through this, know that although your situation is unique, most likely there is someone out there that has been through something similar. Seek counseling if you are struggling. Also, know that there are groups of people that can help you find your birth parents if you so desire.

 

The next article in this series “The Search,” will dive into expectations when searching for your family.

 

instilling beliefs

 

Out It Goes

 

When I was young, our church had a minister that proclaimed that we must be wary of the devil’s work. He declared that we must eliminate certain items and beliefs from our households. One of those items was an Ouija board. This deeply concerned my mother given we had one of those boards. Because of this fear that he instilled in her, she took our Ouija board to the family farm and burned it. I believe there were other things or beliefs we had to purge from our home under the direction of this particular minister; however, the Ouija board is the one that sticks most in my memory. Maybe that is because I watched it go up in smoke!

 

It Is Everywhere

 

This is one example of someone influencing other people’s beliefs based on their own beliefs. Most of us regularly encounter people attempting to influence our beliefs. This behavior is very prevalent in newscasts, social media, and late night comedy. Of course, family, friends, and co-workers also regularly demonstrate this behavior.

 

People may consciously or unconsciously try to instill their beliefs in others. The stronger the connection that we have to the person; the more vulnerable we are to their beliefs influencing our own beliefs. Thus, it is not uncommon for our beliefs and values to shift based on the beliefs of those we trust. The resulting beliefs may or may not reflect our true beliefs.

 

True To Yourself

 

In order to prevent undue influence by others, it is important that we know our self and our true beliefs. By doing so, we can control our response to beliefs that differ from our own. When pressured to have a different belief, we can choose to remain silent realizing that the person has a right to their opinion. We can however, where appropriate, express a differing opinion in a caring manner. We do not have to accept the other person’s beliefs – no matter who they are or how powerful they are.

 

There are ways to check to see if someone is influencing you. If your emotions are stirred, for example, that can be a sign that someone is trying to use your emotions to instill their beliefs in you. Triggering fear and anger are common ways to make others vulnerable to influence.

 

You can also check to see how you view something now versus in your past. Has your belief changed? It is good to grow and change as long as the change was of your choosing. It is important to assess if you chose in your heart to change or if you allowed someone to “gift” you their belief.

 

Stand Firm

 

If someone tries to instill their beliefs in you, stand firm. Recognize their effort for what it is and know that you do not need to fall victim to their influence. You have the power to make your own decisions.

 

 

Energetic Connection

 

 

Have you ever had a place, food, service, or professional recommended to you by someone you trust only to find that you don’t feel the same way? It has probably happened to most everyone. But, why?

 

Does It Resonate?

 

A business, house, church, or restaurant can be highly recommended and yet it just doesn’t seem to resonate with you. In the case of a restaurant, the food is good and the atmosphere is fine, but it just doesn’t feel quite right. For a church, the people can be nice and the beliefs aligned with your own. Yet, it too doesn’t feel right. The same can be said of almost anything or any one.

 

With relationships, your friend can introduce you to someone who seems perfect for you. That person seems to have all the attributes that you are looking for in a relationship. Still, there isn’t a spark and you may not even get along at all.

 

Energetic Connection

 

The reason for these reactions is that you do not connect with these places and people. It goes far beyond the logic that says that you should like these places. Instead, it falls into the category of an energetic connection.

 

Two people, places or things can have positive energy and seem to have much in common. However, the energy of the two is incompatible and they don’t resonate with each other. This does not mean that there is anything negative about either one. They simply aren’t an energetic match for each other.

 

Your Energy Knows

 

Thus, it is important to tap into your energetic sensors that give you that feeling of this is a match or not. If you simply rely on facts and logic, you will spend lots of time figuring out what your energy already knows.

 

Interestingly, if you tap into that energy, you will see the facts differently. Facts that might be interpreted as major roadblocks for something that is wrong for you will be dismissed or seen as minor bumps if it is energetically right for you. It is important to distinguish viewing facts with an energetic perspective from taking the facts and trying to make them fit because you want them to fit. These are two very different things.

 

Tap into your energy today and decisions will become obvious!

 

 

meaningful relationships

 

 

Ever feel like you are living a song? I have been hearing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ frequently the last few years. When I began to notice the song, I assumed that my connection to the song was through the song title. I believed that I kept hearing this song as a way to encourage me down the path I’ve been traveling since leaving the corporate world.

 

Assumptions

 

Recently my wife questioned my assumption. She asked if the connection could be with the lyrics or meaning of the song. So, I looked at the lyrics and was surprised to find some interesting correlations with my life.

 

I’m just a city boy, born and raised in Omaha. I’m married to a small town girl. A couple years ago, we rode a midday train going anywhere (actually Georgetown, CO). We’re feeling like we’re living in a lonely world with everyone attached to their electronic devices and ignoring personal contact. And the associations go on, and on, and on. Okay, I’m sure you are now looking on the Internet for the lyrics. And, yes, I took liberties.

 

The point of this song is that we are all looking for meaningful relationships. This song suggests that the purpose in life is trying to fill an emotional void through personal connections. Sometimes we will find someone to fill that void and other times we continue with the search, going through relationship after relationship. This song encourages us to hold on to the feeling of hope that we will find the relationship that we seek.

 

Deeper Meaning

 

If I look beyond the song title, I think there is a deeper meaning for me. I interpret the search for meaningful relationships to be analogous to seeking out people I can help improve their lives. Some of these people are looking for their own meaningful relationships. Meanwhile, others are looking for ways to identify how to improve their lives.

 

On the flip side, some of those people are consciously or unconsciously seeking my assistance. When I am able to help them achieve improved clarity in their life or relief from ailments, I feel emotionally fulfilled. As such, the song both encourages me to continue and reminds me of the benefits of making such a connection.

 

The work I do is one way to help others. We all, however, have the ability to positively affect the lives of others. Sometimes it only takes a smile to establish a connection with someone. From there you never know where it may lead. Who knows, maybe there’s a meaningful relationship just waiting to begin with your next smile.