Skip to main content
Commsy creative stuff straight to your inbox


Why not to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes 

< Blog home

Why not to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes 

Ever been told to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes?

One of the principles from Dale Carnegie’s best-selling How to Win Friends and Influence People is: “try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view”. This is called “perspective-taking”.

Many organisations have since adopted various perspective-taking activities – in which colleagues are asked to imagine themselves in another person’s position – to develop empathy, flexibility of thought and interpersonal communication skills between employees.

However, a recent psychological study suggests that although participants believed this practice would be effective, there was no evidence to show that it was. * We need pause, reflect and think about our biases before entering a conversation on different perspectives.

In fact, the authors of this study discovered that getting another person’s perspective directly, through conversation, was the most effective way to increase accuracy, understanding and empathy. 

Confronted with this simple and actionable truth, my classmates and I who are all on the same Masters programme together, but are dotted around the world (UK, USA, Canada, China, France, Germany, Zimbabwe, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to name a few), were asked to reflect on how we might go about ‘getting’ perspectives at work… 


Lien: cross-cultural exchange

Lien, who works for a global technology business in China, shares a unique approach where team members are sent abroad for three months to experience and learn from the country’s societal and work-place culture. It’s like a student exchange programme, but for work. During those three months he runs onboarding and cross-cultural workshops with the participant and their peers from the host country. This provides ample opportunities for getting information first-hand. During Lien’s sessions, challenging conversations around different belief systems and ways of being are always acknowledged and worked through, emphasising an ongoing journey towards acceptance and collaboration.


Ozlem: self-reflection

Ozlem, a Turkish literature teacher who has been living in China for the past four years, highlights the importance of self-reflection and self-awareness when it comes to getting different perspectives. In the book, How to Have Impossible Conversations, writers Boghossian and Lindsay make the point: “when you encounter a person with radically different beliefs, you might think they’re ignorant, crazy, or malicious,” often leading to misinterpretations about their intentions and motivations. So, we need pause, reflect and think about our biases before entering a conversation on different perspectives, keeping it grounded in empathy, positivity and open mindedness. For Ozlem, acknowledging one’s biases is a big part of personal and professional development.  


Try and shift the power dynamics - the questioner isn't always the expert in the room.

Charity: active listening 

Charity, who was a specialist cancer nurse and is now a minister at her church in the UK, is passionate about driving justice, dignity, and solidarity in this space and plans to ‘hear’ instead of ‘take’ different perspectives by focusing on active listening. For Charity, listening is well demonstrated when individuals can summarise what they’ve heard. Having a strong understanding of diverse perspectives is vital on a global scale; for example, Charity’s church leaders have recently travelled to Ghana to actively listen and learn about what it means to be a Ghanaian Christian.


Anna: reciprocal focus groups Use tools and techniques from around the world to get an authentic understanding of what someone else thinks and feels.

Anna, who lives in Luxembourg and has dedicated their career to NGOs, underscores the importance of reciprocal focus groups to shift power dynamics. By organizing mutual sessions in a neutral space, with both leaders and colleagues setting the agenda and having the chance to facilitate, participants can share insights while challenging the assumption that the questioner is the superior expert in the room. This approach aims to bring more balance to the experience of getting perspectives. 

No matter what country or industry you work in, perspective-taking can lead you to assume or merely imagine someone else’s position based on what you think you know. Instead, use these tools and techniques from around the world to engage in meaningful conversations and get an authentic understanding of what someone else thinks and feels. 

And remember, if you need some support, we’ve always got your back! 


Special thank you to Anna, Charity, Ozlem and Lien for allowing me to harness your wisdom! 

By Lauren Castle for Alive!


* Tal Eyal, Mary Steffel and Nicholas Epley, ‘Perspective mistaking: Accurately understanding the mind of another requires getting perspective, not taking perspective’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Want more EDI insight? Sign up for our newsletter

signup banner with yellow background and an image of a dog & and duck

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
Alive logo