The Question to Ask If You Want to Change Everything

by | Aug 31, 2021 | Healthy Relationships

Our human experience is multi-layered; things are rarely what they seem.

In this video, one of my very favorite scenes from the movie Shrek, I particularly love the line that ogres are like onions (or cake, or parfait, as Donkey points out).

Ogres (and humans) have layers.

Or, remember this story by Steven Covey about the man on the subway, and how his paradigm shifted, how his judgments dissolved, how his irritation lifted once he learned more about what was going on in that man’s life.

Situations also have layers.

It’s easy for me to forget about the importance of these layers when something I don’t like happens. At these times, I sometimes notice myself slipping straight into judgment, evaluation, irritation, and analysis. But, when I get irritated, or annoyed, or judgmental, here’s one simple trick that I have always found profoundly helpful:

Instead of wondering “What’s wrong with them?” I start asking “What’s going on with them?”

This simple shift from “what’s wrong” to “what’s going on” has the power to dramatically change our perceptions, our thinking, and our relationships.

Changing this default mode of thinking and perceiving fundamentally changed and deepened my conversations and relationships.

“What’s going on for you?” invites us to reflect upon the various layers of the human experience – ours and theirs.

“What’s going on?” invites us to cultivate and offer more care, more understanding, and more awareness.

It encourages us to reflect, to check in, to go more deeply.

It reminds us that we have layers, that our actions are not always fully conscious, that things aren’t always what they seem.

Our human healing and development journey is filled with layers of experience, waiting to be understood, to be surfaced and to be loved. This week, I hope you take more time to get to know yourself and others more deeply – to love up all the layers.

Let’s spend more time figuring out what is going on for ourselves and others and less time on the shame and blame patterns that keep us stuck and suffering.

And, for a concrete example of how things can sometimes be more layered than they may seem at first glance, check out the video below. I illustrate the various layers underlying complex decisions that sometimes come up to challenge our relational agreements and commitments.


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