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Put Yourself in Your Colleague’s Shoes

Oct. 6, 2014 HBR Blogs

I start my mornings with a run around Central Park in New York City. Over the last 18 months, it’s become more like dodging the cyclists as I make my way around the loop than going for a relaxing jog.  Cursing, flipping the bird – even a near miss – are regular occurrences as these two groups of athletes try to get their daily workout. I’ve even seen a cyclist spit on a runner.

How could so many cyclists be so angry? Wanting to understand, last Saturday I borrowed a friend’s bicycle, strapped on his cycling shoes, and clipped into the pedals. I entered the park on West 77th Street, where a steep ramp descends into the 6-mile loop. I quickly accelerated down it and had to merge onto a roadway packed with runners and pedestrians who weren’t paying attention to me. As my bicycle picked up speed and I tried to enter the loop, I realized I was in danger — and so were the runners in my path. That’s when I shouted, “HEADS UP!”

I had been bicycling in the park for only a matter of seconds and I was already yelling at runners and pedestrians.

My perspective shift was immediate. But I didn’t feel angry – I felt scared. Any unexpected move by a runner could mean a serious collision, both for me and for them.

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