If I were You

“I would have not allowed it to happen, if I were you”, he shut the door and left.

All of us must have done school assignments for writing skills. There was one specific type I could remember. The one where the student is asked to assume a specific role and write about it. Something like “If you were the Head of school, what would you do for school”, “If you were a doctor, how would you treat a patient”. How did we attempt such questions? Writing all the nice things we will do. The acts which are morally correct, seen as good work by all. We never mentioned any negatives, as it does not look good in writing. The children will not have the life wisdom and they usually write from the morally correct point of you. The exercise is meant for the vocabulary and grammatical skills, so mostly focus is on the same. The education system as well as students are more focused to keep it beautiful in thoughts as well as words. This is the irony of the education system mostly. It degrades an activity from its basic agenda.

As such yes, the activity is meant for improving the writing skills of the student, however it gives such a great platform to develop empathy in children. 

Fast forward to the adult life, the phrase “If I were you” is the prominent one. It comes out in conversations verbally or mentally. If we record our thoughts, we can observe taking the role of other person and evaluating his actions from our position. As such there is no harm is suggesting a person from your point of view. However, the phrase “If I were you” should be avoided. 

“If I were the team lead like you, I would have never allowed this project plan to get approved”. Just like the school exercise in life also we always do the best, smartest thing when we are taking someone else’s position hypothetically. But what we miss here is that, when you are taking the other person’s shoes you don’t only own the actions, you need to own his conditions, his restrictions and his numerous considerations. These actual things will be visible to you only when you are that person. There is no magic that can make you that person. This is beyond human capability. This is no algebraic equation where X equals Y by making some calculations.

Even when we are advising someone with “If I were you” position, remember you are still yourself. It is more of an advice from your perspective. Remembering the difference helps us to understand the basic thing. There are 2 different people involved here. And hence 2 different perspectives, 2 different skills. We should never try to superimpose them.

This seems to be no big thing at one go and we feel like it is same. We are just trying to advise the person by being in his shoes. However, if we see bit closely, by saying “If I were you” we are at the first place rejecting, overriding the other person. The connection and communication is no more dual. It is already only YOU. You have removed the other person from the scenario. He is looking for answers to his problem from his position. What he can do better, where he went wrong? For that you need to decide from his point. He will live life from his perspective and not yours. If any correction needed, it is in his perspective. Most of the advices fail to get accepted because of this. And the sad thing is; the more desperate the situation, there are more chances of the advice to fail.

The reason is simple, the advice always comes from the position of “If I were you”. The focus should be to understand the person and where he can improve, alter and get better results. Otherwise the conversations will always close like the first line of the article. The door gets shut, the moment conversation becomes “If I were you”