Putting Yourself Into Their Shoes!

We all have a tendency to have two set of rules, those rules that we use to judge the world by (and we feel they should judge themselves by) and the way we judge ourselves, which always tends to be a little less harsh and a whole lot more forgiving of short-falls.  I was lucky in that I had a father that from a young age taught me to judge others with the same rules as I judge myself.  He always told me, “put yourself in their shoes” meaning think of how it would feel to be that person and have that person’s life.  He would also ‘call me on it’ when I did something myself that I complained about in others.  Calhoon (nickname his name was Calvin) was an amazing man and great father!

This did two things for me, first of all it made develop compassion for people and look at the dumb things they do, in an understanding way, since those are pretty close to the dumb things I do.  It also taught me to be honest with myself.  When a client gets upset or when one of my children have hurt feelings, I put myself into their shoes and think if under those same circumstances I wouldn’t feel the same way.  Most of the times I find I would feel the exact same way, so how can they be wrong doing what I would do under the same circumstances.

Putting yourself into other people shoes is not only an honest way to live your life, but a necessary way of running a business.  This is a process that some photographers have a hard time with.  Good example, I was recently at a photography event with other photographers.  This one photographer seemed like a nice guy and the subject of one of my books came up, Corrective Lighting and Posing, which deals with the topic of correcting the flaws that paying clients  have.  When this photographer heard this it set something off inside of him, he start making fun of every overweight bride and unattractive senior that he had photographed who were completely amazed that they looked over weight or unattractive in the portraits he had taken.  He made the typically comments about Weight Watchers and Plastic surgery.  I looked at this man and he was about 5ft. 6inch high and about 5ft. around.  Let’s just say he hadn’t seen “Mr. Pee Pee”  for a number of years.  He was bald and time hadn’t been kind to whatever good looks he had in his youth.  If anyone in the world should have been compassionate to these overweight and un-attractive clients, it should have been him, but he not only didn’t put himself in their shoes, he didn’t look in the mirror to realize he was wearing the same shoes!

Photographers have to put themselves into their clients shoes to be an effective photographer, as well as business person.  We have to learn how to encourage people to do what they should do, even when they think they don’t want to do it.  You see a young lady who is really overweight wanting to full length poses.  You realize she won’t buy the full length poses because she is very overweight, however if you ‘blow-off’ her request she will be offended and not buy photographs anyways.  When you realize how people are, including yourself, you can kindly and caringly direct her to the most appropriate style of portraits for her unique look!

Putting yourself into other people shoes is even more important for younger photographers.  In today’s digital world, so many photographers are in a hurry to start working with paying clients, but you have to put yourself into their shoes.  How would you feel if you trusted someone to capture professional images of a once in a lifetime event, like wedding or family reunion.  This person presented themselves as a professional, showed the best twenty images they had ever taken (that they had Photoshopped into looking decent) and you paid good money for.  How would you feel if this person mis-represented themselves to make a quick buck and you get snapshots of your once in a lifetime event.  What would YOU do?  How would YOU feel?  What if you went to an accountant to do your taxes and the guy had on a suit and was in an office, but had never taken a class on tax preparation or even read the tax codes?  Then when you got audited and had fines and late fees to pay, and when you confronted the guy he shrugged his shoulders and said, “well you should have known, I was charging you so much less and you got what you paid for!”  How would YOU feel?  What would YOU do?

Putting yourself into other’s shoe is a practice that not only makes you a better photographer and business person, but a better person.  You realize that we are much more the same, then different, even though most of us think not!



~ by jeffsmithbooks on March 1, 2011.

One Response to “Putting Yourself Into Their Shoes!”

  1. That is so true!! Love how that fellow hadn’t seen “Mr. Pee Pee” in a while…too funny!

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