Friday Feels: Standing in other Shoes
I grew up in the south of the United States and in the world of conservative, Christian religion. As a child I remember listening to the stories from the Bible with wonder and often times confusion. Made even more complicated by the fact that my father was the Preacher.
I particularly remember one Sunday morning, I was maybe 7 or 8 years old and the reading was a passage saying that if someone asks you to walk a mile with them, walk two.
I had this visual of someone walking up to me on the street and just saying, “Hey Jeremiah, can you walk a mile with me in this direction?” and apparently the correct response was supposed to be, “Actually, let’s go two miles.”
It always made me chuckle as a kid to think of this in the literal sense.
But as I’ve grown older, I think I’d paraphrase this lesson as “see it as a gift when someone asks you to stand in their shoes.”
I got that chance this week.
Andrew is a neurodiverse Manager in at Meta. He had referenced a note in response to a post on diversity in recruiting and — voila — we had the chance to connect.
To be completely open with you all, I was nervous approaching this topic.
I know very little about the neurodiverse community, and I feel like so much of what I do know is through caricatures we see in the media.
To say I was walking a tightrope in my mind was an understatement.
But then I remembered this lesson from my childhood and figured I’d treat this time with Andrew as a chance to walk a mile or two in his shoes.
This helped me shift my focus off of myself and onto him.
To see this as an opportunity to hang a lantern on my own ignorance and embrace the chance to learn.
And what I found on the other side of that choice was one of the best and most meaningful 25 minute meetings I’ve had in years.
I got a chance to see the world in Andrew’s shoes and through his stylish glasses.
The amount of “a ha” moments blew my mind.
And now, I can take that new understanding and partnership with him and use my position of privilege as someone who shapes how we recruit at Meta to help ensure we’re standing in other shoes when we make decisions about how we hire.
And it got me thinking…
I love change.
I tend to thrive in change. I embrace it.
I even had the chance to share with people how to “Lead through Change” when I was an HRBP — connecting with so many incredible colleagues from Singapore to London and back here in the US, eager to learn how to lead in this way.
But a key component of change — of evolving — is standing in other shoes.
Think about it this way — you can’t change or evolve if you just stay in the same shoes you’ve worn all along.
Change requires that I do something different. That I actively step outside of my own experience, my own view of the world, and I actively pursue another way, another path.
And that’s hard to do when I’m focused on myself.
Now, I get it. We’re human.
It’s hard when challenging things are happening to you to not think of you.
But I want to propose that in those moments of challenge it is the exact moment to intentionally stand in other shoes to see where to take the next step.
How would our relationships change with this mindset?
How would our dynamic with colleagues and clients shift with this approach?
What if we took each little encounter with another as a sacred moment to step into their shoes and walk a mile?
Or maybe even offer to go two?
Take care of each other, mi gente.