The recipe for building relationships has probably never been stated more succinctly or elegantly than by Dale Carnegie. One of his most famous quotes from “How to Win Friends & Influence People” is: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
The statement was true 80 years ago when he wrote it, and it is true today.
Imagination and Connection
A big part of becoming interested in other people is having the willingness to allow our minds to try and look at the world through their eyes. To step outside of our own self-focus, and imagine events from the perspective of another person. We all have the capacity to do this – we all know how to imagine – but very few people are truly willing to step into the shoes of others.
Why is this? Perhaps the biggest reason is that, in order to imagine a perspective different than the one that you currently hold, you have to be willing to, temporarily, suspend the very perspectives and opinions that you hold dear. True empathy requires you to accept the fact that other people’s viewpoints may be equally or even more valid than your own. This can only be achieved by someone who is not afraid to have their belief structure questioned, not afraid to learn, and not afraid to accept changes to their very understanding of how the world works. It also means having the courage to forget about your own needs for a while, so you can focus on understanding the needs of others.
We Struggle With Being Other-People-Focused
Sadly, most of us really struggle with putting other people’s needs before our own. “Walking a mile in someone’s shoes,” as the old saying goes, means casting aside judgemental attitudes, and simply accepting things for what they are. It’s not easy.
Want to create new or stronger relationships? Put your own little world on the shelf from time to time, and learn to listen – and imagine the world from someone else’s perspective.