Lessons When You Try On Someone Else's Feelings

placematAs things turned out, by the time we visited my son and his family early this year they purchased a new home. Oh they had been talking about this upgrade in space for some time and then there it was – a decision to go with as near to perfect to their dream home as they could find. Needless to say, with at least 8 home and house moves behind us, my husband and I are pros with packing, unpacking and putting things in their new place. We pitched right in.

Around the third day or so, my son was trying to explain to my oldest granddaughter Ruby why he would now, in their new home, prefer that the girl’s supposed “erasable” markers to be put away for good. He was most concerned that they could leave a permanent mark on the tables, floors or even (yikes) a wall!

At just 7 years old she did not understand the reasonable conversation so he decided to revisit it at a later time. Just how do you reason with a 7 year old? To get them to understand, let them try on your feelings.

At lunch Ruby was sitting at the kids table, with her younger sister Naomi, and on each table space was a brand new placemat in time for Easter coming up.

While I can’t recall the specific next trigger event, what is memorable is how defiant Ruby was about keeping her placement clean and free from –damage.

She was clinging the placement to her chest with a look of disappointment on her face and a muttering in her voice.

“So Ruby, what’s going on with you?” as I was getting ready to go over and serve up some soup and sandwich for the two girls.

“Not happy. I don’t want to use the placemat. I want it to stay shiny and clean,” she whined.

“Really?” I asked and quickly took advantage of the worried state she appeared to express.

This was a cue for me and I moved into a little coaching role asking, “Ruby, do you know that feeling you have right now? It’s kind of a not so good feeling.”

She shook her head yes, with a frown and still clasping the placemat.

“Well that is almost just like the feeling your dad has about what might happen to the new house floors and tables if your markers where to not stay shiny and clean,” being careful to use her own words.

She loosened up on the mat, and as it fell away from her chest in her hands, “Oh,” she said more sympathetically.

Taking full advantage of the state she was in, I moved to a more uplifting moment asking her, if after lunch did she want to test each marker (there must have been about 50 of them!) to see if they were indeed erasable, and if not, we would toss them in the trash.

Full agreement from her, a smile – who doesn’t want to please their dad – and the placemat was neatly put down on the table in front of her so the girls could enjoy their lunch.


– You have to walk in someone else’s shoes to know and feel what they experience. This is a way to put someone else’s feelings on, pleasant or unpleasant, for the moment so you can have empathy.

– You have to listen to the signs that someone is open for a shift. When you hear that readiness, you can more easily help someone understand their feelings without invalidating them, and instead, letting them know you understand.

– Sometimes when we experience our emotions, if we become aware of them – acknowledge and identify them – we can use them to serve us in a greater purpose for all.

How can you use these kind of lessons in your life? Or in business?

What other lesson can you come away with from an experience like this?

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  1. I loved this story. It is so true. If we just take the time to be in the present moment we can hear and see the sigh to then step into someones else’s shoes as you did with Ruby. It is a great lesson. One we all need to hear and heed many times in our lives. Thank you. 🙂
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Spring – It Begins: Poem (Podcast)My Profile

  2. I really like the way you and your son take the time to explain things to children as opposed to the unfortunate way many parents deal with things, by saying “no, why, because I said so”.

    It is so important for children to learn things in a positive manner instead of a negative one.
    Sicorra recently posted…10 Smart Ways to Live a Frugal LifestyleMy Profile

  3. Geek Girl

    I love this story! Well done! 🙂
    Geek Girl recently posted…Samsung Galaxy S4 Accessories From Mobile FunMy Profile

  4. Susan, that sigh is ALL telling. Thanks.

  5. Sicorra, yes, we could all benefit – adults and children – from a positive approach. At least, that is what my husband tells me when I veer off course! Thanks.

  6. Aww shucks Cheryl! Thanks.

  7. A.K., how often do you get a chance to seize ANY moment? And with children who are already wiser in years than you ever were? Whew. It was a stretch. Thanks.

  8. Great post Pat. Talk about intuitive of you to seize the day with Ruby – and pretty darn receptive and perceptive of her as a 7 yr old to be able to relate so quickly. It really is hard to understand other people’s feelings, but whenever theres a disagreement, a good resolution is often to try & think of it from their perspective.
    A.K.Andrew recently posted…5 Books made into Films – Which Version is a Modern Classic?My Profile

  9. Jeannette Paladino

    Pat — what a lovely story. I think what you’re referring to is empathy: actually feeling what another person is feeling. Only then can you understand what it would be like to be in their shoes. That’s why it’s so unproductive to say things like, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” How many times have we heard people say that. You can’t legislate other people’s feelings.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…In Designing a Website for Mobile Viewing Where is “Above the Fold?”My Profile

  10. Indeed it is about being able to tap those moments with clients and even family and friends to be able to easily feel, empathy. Thanks Jeannette.

  11. Thank you Dennis.

  12. Dennis Fahey

    A lovely well-told story!

  13. Catarina says

    Wonderful story Pat. Good example how feeling another person’s feelings enables you to get your message across.
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