Monday, 10 January 2011

Walk in someone else's shoes.

(photo by jef safi)

The wisdom of the internet suggests that walking a mile in someone else's shoes was a metaphor first expressed in the Muslim tradition. (Thank you Yahoo! answers). Harper Lee uses it in To Kill a Mockingbird. Since then it's become common wisdom but how many of us really have a go at imagining what someone else's life is like?

We notice what supports 'the sort of person I am'
Usually what we see or hear is what appeals to some side of our personality, either that or something that we definitely don't like. We miss so many things that lack energy for us, and other people miss things that have energy for us. (The dirty dishes, the pile of the sunlight catches our favourite ornament.)

We've been inviting you to really pay attention to the world. To notice one moment each day and write about it. I'm sure that I could place a few of you in the same room and you would each notice and write something different.

Imagine what someone else would see.
A couple of years ago, on a training course I was on I was asked to write down what I noticed in a room I was in. I was then invited to imagine myself into the character of my mother, to walk into the same room and write down what she noticed. It was like being in a different room.  

Try it now - close your eyes and imagine yourself into the character of someone you know well. Open your eyes again and see what looks different....

Stepping out of yourself can shake up how we see the world, and let in things we might not usually have seen. 

When you notice your small stone today why not have a look and see what might be in that place that catches someone else's eye?  You could choose a real person, like me looking around the room with my mother's eyes, or you could choose a favourite character from a novel... what does Atticus Finch see?

Let me know how you get on. 



  1. I love this exercise, Kaspa. Something that I'd consider automatically when writing prose and longer poems but I hadn't thought about it for these captured 'stone' or 'haiku' moments. Thanks! Will definitely play with it in the coming days.

  2. Oh my this is an interesting idea- can you tell that I am a photographer not a writer? We will see how what stone I find today. Teri

  3. This is an interesting exercise and as Lynne said, I'd do this automatically when writing...but I'm not sure I've consciously done it with someone I know or am close to. Would also be interesting to do with someone I'm in disagreement with. It's all about pausing and slowing down isn't it?
    I'm so glad I've stumbled across your river of gems - really enjoying it!

  4. Interesting idea, I agree. And in addition Teri's comment about being a photographer made me think that the exercise is perhaps the written equivalent of sticking a camera on the end of a long stick - it's all about changing our viewpoint.

  5. Oh dear. I shouldn't have done that. I can now see my mother wagging a finger at me for failing to tidy up!

  6. I can never read that "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" thing without thinking of ....

    "Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”

    I've seen this attributed to so many people (Spike Milligan included) and it always makes me smile :)


  7. My little stone is here

  8. Hi everyone,

    Lynne I know what you mean. I think it's because we imagine in a haiku we can get at reality somehow. But we are always someone, looking at something.

    Look forward to seeing your stone -terri

    Susan Yes, someone you are close to can sometimes be a little edgy, but enlightening too... Like MorningAJ seeing their mother. But having a glimpse of how someone else sees the world can help us in our relationships as well as our writing...

    Yes, tralala I came across that too when I Googled the phrase, it made me smile :)

    Thank you for putting the link to your stone vivinfrance - I wonder whose eyes you chose?

    All the best


  9. A very interesting idea.The ability to see the world as others see it can help develop empathy , understanding and patience.I try to do this and will keep trying.Thanks

  10. Steve It's amazing isn't it, how easy it is to get stuck inside out own point of view? Really imagining what life is like for someone else can be an eye-opener, and challenging too sometimes....

    Thanks for the comment