Ask the right question

Right Turn, Clyde!

Right turn, Clyde.

Clyde can even say the motto heard most often in Maison de Dwyer: Specificity is the rule. You may even recall it is the only real rule here. If you were not here seven years ago, the rule has not changed: Specificity is the rule.

When asking questions, specificity is a must. This transcends merely saying, “I want a grilled mozzarella sandwich on wheat bread with the crusts cut off.” If you are seeking an answer, you must have some idea of the answer you seek or the ability to phrase the question in a way to get the response you need.

For instance, if you are curious as to the temperature outside, good questions include:

  • Do I need a coat and gloves to go outside?
  • Did it snow this morning?
  • What is the temperature? (Number one answer.)

Likewise, if you are unfamiliar with a process, being specific in your questioning may be difficult. If you need to know which part to replace in your car but have no idea which part could be bad, asking someone how the system works and what would make it malfunction is specific enough to solicit either a direct answer or respondent questions.

It goes for all matters verbal and all matters of body language. You may be curious as to the body language part.

Mate says, “I love you, too,” without looking away from the menu on the television, remote firmly in hand. Chances are good this was a rote response. A worse example is Teen. Parent tells Teen to clean the bathroom disaster area, which Teen created, before leaving for the football game. Much pouting and harrumphing and stomping accompany the lackluster performance of cleaning.

troll under a bridge

What did the insolent little mugger Teen really say?

  • If you want it clean, you clean it.
  • Trolls do not like clean.
  • What if I like living among the fungi?


Body language can be a screen against saying things we will regret tomorrow, or later today. Sometimes, the screen is the body language, like Mate with the remote.

Have you noticed how many people go to dinner and only look up from their telephones when the food arrives? Even still, they leave the infernal things beside their plates as though the world would stop spinning on its axis if they miss a notification from social media or a text message.

Raise your hand if you are old enough to remember telephones on the wall without caller identification. *raises hand*

If you are talking to the top of your conversation companion’s head, guess whose body language is blaring IGNORE.

Eyes front!

We all have a tendency to look for butterflies when someone is droning on about sock lint futures. Blame DNA. Humans have a tendency to only pay attention to subjects they find interesting or people they find interesting. This does not translate into loving every subject Mate finds giggity-worthy.

While, yes, this body language is not as blatant as staring at the screen, watching butterflies is a dead giveaway our audience is tuning into the paint-drying channel rather than listening to what we have to say.

What was the question?

Always with the questions.

But I thought…

Yes, this post is about asking the right question. See, if we really want our dinner companion to talk to us, engaging said person in conversation is a two-person job. Ask a question which will draw them into a conversation with you. Often, this means changing the subject from our fabulous socks to something we have in common.

Not sure what that is yet? Let’s ask them what is going on in their digital lives. If our companion is hooked on the screen, we might just discover what makes it so alluring if we will ask. Nothing is quite as revealing as looking at all the things a person likes on social media.

Teen is not off the hook. Let’s ask Teen its opinion on cleanliness and the likelihood a furry shower stall will produce a clean enough body to attract its secret crush. We might just find out that crush was three crushes ago, but we can still make the lesson apply if we can put it into a context Teen chooses to understand.

Heigh, ho! Heigh ho! To the work we go!

Getting a new job? The HR manager likely told you how much the salary is. It might be pertinent to find out what day said salary is paid. Perhaps, asking for some expansion on the line in the job description: Any other task to facilitate production. In some lines of work, shoveling snow makes the work go faster.

Spending a truckload of money? What is the refund policy? Does this come with a warranty? What percentage of these are returned as defective? Do you own one? These questions are far more revealing than 827 5-star reviews.

We need to write questions in advance of doctor’s appointments.

  • How will this medicine interact with what I already take?
  • What is the exact name of the illness you prescribed this medicine to treat?
  • Is this drug indicated for that illness?
  • Of which side effects do I need to notify you?


The best gauge for knowing if we have enough information is telling someone else about the situation. If our information does not stand up to Bestie’s questions, we need to ask the right questions. If we do not understand someone’s body language, the simplest question is, “Why are you acting this way?”

How effective are you at asking questions? Have you had a question whose answer completely changed your mind about something or someone?

#Hashtags: #questions #communication #bodylanguage

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