Remember when you were four? No? Well, do you remember when your child (or one close to you) was four? There are some powerful words in a four-year-old’s vocabulary. Although no is one of those words, the most powerful word is a three-letter word.
When we ask questions, we often take the first answer given to us and stop. Why do we do this?
- Making conversation.
- Trust the person to tell us the truth.
- Did not really want an answer.
- Did not really care if there was an answer.
Something to Say
If the questions we ask are merely to make conversation, we are being disrespectful. Read that sentence again.
If the questions we ask are merely to make conversation, we are being disrespectful.” ~ Red Dwyer
Some of those questions are ones we hear or say everyday:
- How was your day?
- Did you finish?
- What do you want to do?
How was your day? is on par with How have you been? The first you ask to a person with whom you are in daily contact, where the second is for the person you see only occasionally, possibly randomly. You ask because you have nothing else to ask which may be relevant. You may ask because you were taught to ask it to be polite.
Polite? Really? The body language when you ask either of these questions is far more telling of your attitude. If you are asking Mate How was your day? but you never make eye contact, have your back turned, are walking from the room or fail to look up from your (craft, keyboard, reading), you could not care less if there is an answer.
When you ask it of Quaint at the grocery store but you are looking at (a display of rutabagas, tabloid headlines, the cashier’s mismatched socks), you are hoping for the perfunctory Fine. Not much of a conversation you are seeking, eh? Fact is, you are so out of touch with Quaint you cannot ask a relevant question.
If you cannot follow up the question with relevant feedback or other questions, do not begin a conversation you are not interested in having.
Have you ever been wrong? It is equally plausible the person who answered your question has been also. It is even plausible the time which that person was wrong was when answering your question. No, that statement is not meant to make you distrust, but it is designed for you to take a healthy skepticism.
You know there are certain people on whom you can rely for the truth. However, the person you trust may have gotten the information you seek from someone who is not as trustworthy. Quaint may have asked the person who flubs the game of telephone. Information mutates the more people who handle it.
The truth is always the truth, but when the truth is repeated, it is often interpreted. When it is passed to the next person, the interpretation is passed instead of handing the raw truth to the next person. In that way, the truth is (modified, exaggerated, mutilated).
Asking Why? helps bring the raw truth back to the surface. Even if Quaint got an interpretation, by exploring the facts you have between you, you are more likely to find the unadulterated truth by deductive reasoning, rather than only the interpretation .
If we do not want to know, why do we ask? Sometimes, it is our fascination with train wrecks. Other times, we think we can handle the truth. In reality, we are often far happier not to know.
Many times the truth hurts. We have gotten used to our bubbles. Having Mate stab the bubble with the truth can be painful. When we take off with the answer, we often sulk with the wrong part of the truth.
A half-truth is just as painful as a lie.” ~ Red Dwyer
Pain tends to stop us in our tracks. The emotional pain we get from some answers supplied by (Quaint, Mate, Child) makes us recoil. Instead of retreating, ask Why? Understanding why Child thinks you are possessed strengthens your relationship, while just knowing Child thinks you are possessed creates (animosity, distance, mistrust). Often, asking Why? when we are told something painful bares the raw truth, which is the root of the pain, not just the thorns and thistles. Kill the root; kill the pain.
If you truly do not care if there is an answer to the question, you need to ask yourself Why? Not only ask yourself why are you asking the question, but also why do you not care if there is an answer. Chances are good the answer to the first is polite conversation. The second is only a question you can answer.
The simple answer and the first answer are rarely the only answer. When we take the time to ask Why?, we often find out more about ourselves. Sometimes, the discovery is information which will change the way we view the world (bursting the bubble). Other times, we discover things about the person we ask. It could mean the difference in that person’s status on the trust list. Still other times, we learn something about ourselves. Whichever discovery we make, it is worth knowing.
When was the last time you asked Why? What are the best questions to make real conversation? Do you ever ask questions because you are genuinely curious? What was the last question you asked?
(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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