The Post That's All About You!

Bob Leggitt | Friday, 23 December 2011 |

Okay, so it’s not really about you at all - not personally, anyway. How could it be? I’ve probably never met you. I don’t know whether you’re male or female, how old you are, what you like, or what you don’t. Nevertheless, if you’re anything like most people, my assertion that this post was ‘all about you’ will have grabbed your attention.

In the world of commerce, there are certain buzz-phrases which never fail in their ability to increase public interest. ‘All about you’ is one such phrase. Most of what we see from the world of commerce professes to be ‘all about you’. If the vendors don’t say it word for word (and they often do), they’ll be skirting around it in some shape or form. Of course, none of these commercial offerings ever are ‘all about you’. Again, how could they be? If they’re all about anything, they’re all about business, and making money. How long we can sustain an interest in a product or a service which clearly isn’t all about us, is another matter, but we’re undeniably attracted by the phrase.

So why do most people find this magical ‘all about you’ phrase so enticing? Well, more than at any other time in history, we’re obsessed with ourselves. Whereas once the fascination of our surroundings inspired us to great things, today, the world around some of us might as well not exist. A positive appreciation for life’s every facet has been replaced by a highly negative fervour about how we look and what we own, and whether our social networking space denotes us as having 100 or 10,000 ‘friends’.

There’s nothing unnatural about this tendency of self-obsession we have. Nature programs us to survive, and if we weren’t totally self-centred at heart we’d find survival extremely difficult, if not impossible. Results of surveys stating that new mothers are more concerned about how they look than about their children’s behaviour may make us humans seem crass, but as a race, humanity would have little or no ambition without a healthy level of narcissism, and the progress of humankind would have been incredibly slow. Without the self-serving streak which runs through us all, we probably wouldn't be as advanced as we are.

So, the most important thing in your life is probably you. You may find it difficult to accept that you’re this self-absorbed, but that’s mainly because you regard yourself so highly that you can’t believe you’d have such an unattractive quality! Paradoxically, any denial you make is in itself evidence of your narcissism. But don’t worry, we’re all exactly the same. We all keep newspaper cuttings or photos relating to personal successes we’ve achieved through the years, but we don’t maintain a library of such paraphernalia relating to the bloke ten doors up the street. Things mean much more to us when they have a personal focus, and much less (frequently nothing at all) when they don’t.

So is it a problem that a business is able to haul us into something we basically don’t care about, simply by saying it’s ‘all about us’? Well, it can be. Because this false ‘all about you’ philosophy runs right through everything a sophisticated business does, from attracting our initial attention, to taking us for more money than we can afford.

We all know, deep down, that all businesses want is our money. Some may care whether or not we’re happy, but only because they know that if we’re not, we probably won’t patronise them in future. If our happiness was completely unrelated to the amount of money we’d potentially spend, it wouldn’t matter to businesses in the slightest.

But whilst businesses are in truth typically selfish beyond words, they re-focus that selfishness onto us, and it works amazingly well. Using a sort of narcissistic re-emphasis, they divert our attention from what they want, onto what we want. They’re constantly thinking: “Me! Me! Me!”, but they’re constantly shouting: “You! You! You!”.

In fact, they often go to great lengths to deliberately conceal what they want, withholding the price until we’ve already mentally ‘bought’ the goods, and/or burying their own ‘special benefits’ in the smallest print imaginable. Some will even go as far as an attempt to inflame our narcissism, persuading us that we’re far more important than is really the case. They paint such an illustrious picture of us that we could never possibly live up to it. Unless of course we purchase their beautiful (and correspondingly expensive) little status symbol, which permits us to live up to the world’s expectations and prove that we really have achieved something. Even if, in reality, the only thing we’ve achieved is throwing away a large amount of money on something we didn’t in any way need.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there’s nothing to stop us from using this piece of commercial dynamite ourselves. And there’s overwhelming evidence that those who do, end up attracting much greater interest from the people around them than those who don’t. In fact, it’s inevitable. No one’s interested in what you want. Except you, that is. But everyone’s interested in what they want. So, most ironically, the easiest way to get what you want, is to concentrate hardest on the desires of other people - it's the most straightforward and obvious way to keep their genuine interest and attention. None of us can change how we privately feel. But by changing the message we project from “Me! Me! Me!” to “You! You! You!”, we can find ourselves in a much more powerful position. If you haven't already, give it a try. And if it works, then maybe this article was all about you, afterall.

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