I want to thank Pablo Miller for this week’s blog. I am very fortunate to talk with Pablo each week on his radio show on Triple M in Karratha, Western Australia. Last week we were talking about my previous blog, as we do each week, and he brought up another amazing perspective to the theme what it’s about, is not what it’s about. So, this week’s blog is part two of this idea. Thanks Pablo.

If you read last week’s blog, you will know my focus was really on our aspirations in life. My thoughts were that when we say we want to lose weight, make money, write a book, or whatever it may be, it is not really what we want. There is always something deeper and more compelling that will drive us to achieve. What Pablo reminded me of, and a great point, was that often when we are interacting with people what we think is going on is not what’s going on. In other words, what many people say it’s about, is not what it’s about.

Let me just say, before I jump into this blog, I am still learning this stuff and trying to get better with understanding, empathising with, and connecting with people. Have you ever been confused or frustrated in your dealings with people? Me too, often. Have you ever heard them say one thing, and then act in a way that is totally confusing to you? Me too. Now the big question, and the most important question, because this is the one that will most help you understand others. Have you ever said one thing to someone, that was a lie, a smokescreen, or an excuse? Of course you have, and so have I. Why do we do that? For many reasons. Maybe we fear being found out. Maybe we are trying to cover up being angry or upset. Maybe because we don’t want to say no or upset someone. There are many reasons, but the bottom line is that often, as we deal with situations involving others, what we think it’s about, is not what it’s about.

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is always the best thing to do when interacting with any other person, it can help you understand what is actually happening. For example, as a man, and I know many men will relate to what I am about to say, I am pretty unaware and clueless at times. In many of my relationships, I have said or done things that have been upsetting or hurtful to my partner. With some limited self-awareness, I would apologise. Then I would ask if she is okay. Often, she would respond with ‘I am fine’. Men, you know what ‘I am fine’ means, don’t you? I do now, I didn’t at that time. I would hear that she is fine, because she said it, just accept it, feel relieved that I was off the hook, and get on with my day. Was I off the hook? No way. Why? Because What I thought it was about, was not what it was about. Had I really put myself in her shoes, in addition to having very sore feet, I would have known that she was really not fine at all. Then I would’ve spent more time communicating, empathising, apologising, and making her feel loved.

This kind of thing happens in every type of interaction, with children, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. It simply requires some serious self-awareness and focus on how the other person may have perceived what you said or did. The more you can really connect with people and genuinely want the best for them, the more you will understand what it is really about.

The other area is when you are trying to convince, influence, negotiate, or sell. Many people are very resistant to being sold to or convinced to do something, and so even though they may want what you have to offer, they will say something like, ‘I am too busy’, ‘I have no time’, I can’t afford it’, ‘It’s not my cup of tea’, ‘I need to think about it’, or many other ‘smokescreen’ responses.You know this, don’t you? Because you do it too. What many people say it’s about, it’s not about. So, how do you find out what it really is about? First step, do not argue, it never works. Second step, ask this question, ‘I understand, time can be limited for all of us. Apart from that, is there anything else that would stop you?’ If they give you another reason, ask the same question, and keep asking until they say, ‘No, that’s it’. Now you really know what it is about. This strategy is called ‘peeling the onion’, and it’s a great way to find out what the real barrier is and then help them overcome it.

In my podcast this week with Bill Heinrich called Self-love is not selfish, we discuss a crucial area of human experience. When we truly love ourselves, then we are far more open to honest communication with others and a desire to really want to know what it’s about. This is a big topic that I can only touch on, but I want to encourage you to really start thinking about others, as you interact with them, more than you think about yourself. When you do, when you put yourself in their shoes, and when you dig a little deeper to peel the onion, you will finally understand what it’s really about.