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.


By far the most powerful word in the vocabulary is the question word Why? This one simple word unlocks understanding the world. It breaks the incommunicado.


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.

Your truth may vary.

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?

© Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. “Have you ever been wrong?” and admitted it???
    Bearman recently posted..Editorial Cartoon: Olympic SponsorshipsMy Profile

  2. I hate the “How are you?” greeting. If you don’t really want to know, don’t ask.

    I think we constantly need to question things in order to know where we stand.
    Binky recently posted..Shallow LifeMy Profile

  3. Funny you mention the cashier’s socks. She was wearing blue checks on her left, and red stripes on her right. The name on her shirt said Kayla. Maybe the socks were meant as a patriotic gesture. Or maybe she dressed in the dark.

    Nice shoes, I told her. She looked very confused. Then I asked how she had been, like I saw her every so often and knew her. She told me she was fine, but had been REALLY tired the past few weeks because she was staying out too late.

    I gave the kid bagging my groceries an evil look because he was spending more time looking at her than at my groceries. I didn’t want any canned goods put in the same bag as my grapes.

    Meanwhile, the cashier was still trying to figure out who I was and where she knew me from. I paid the total, got 20 bucks cash back and called her by name and told her not to be such a stranger and stay in touch. She nodded numbly, trying one more time to figure out who I was.

    On occasion, I do ask people who don’t know me how they’ve been. I actually do care, but it is also almost as much fun as blowing the car horn and waving at people you don’t know. They always wave back. Almost always.

    And Kayla… I know her parents from church 😉

    MJ-who maybe needs a vacation this week.
    MJ Logan recently posted..Merry Go RoundMy Profile

    • You could pass that off as flash in a heartbeat! I do the waving at strangers thing, but that is more to prove a point…they come no stranger (than I). Do you need a guest post?

  4. Red…. ‘Why’ is just as powerful a word now as when I was four (a time I remember fairly well…) At that time I had a brother, older by 3.7 years, and two sisters, one fourteen, the other a rookie (1-2 years, so not a good source for ‘why’ queries…) So, I had four sources to ask my why’s, and had learned by then which ones I could trust, and in what areas I could trust those answers…. Dad’s answers, of course were the bottom line of all wisdom…. Mom’s answers tended to be nurturing and at times a bit tangential. Sister Sally I could usually trust, as long as I caught her in a good mood (not frequent at 14….). My brother Tim could be trusted for all knowledge of rule violations, otherwise, he was slippery, and wouldn’t get pinned down to a subject long enough to think about ‘why’…. sorry, just had a core memory dump at your expense…. It must have been a good article…. 🙂 Stimulated me, anyway….. See ya!…. Take care, & Blessed Be…
    gigoid recently posted..These brass monkeys were stolen!….My Profile

    • Stimulation is a good thing. We embrace conversation around M3. I am the third eldest of 10, so I had mixed sources as well. Being the mean Momma, it is a question I routinely ask my progeny. Sometimes, they have a hard time trusting me when I tell them it really helps them in the long run. So very glad to see you tonight. 😉

  5. ~Why can I not function if I don’t know why and you can carry on without asking? ~ Lizzie C, (from Prince Paradox and Lady Oxymoron, a Hyperbole if Love (ish)

    Hey I always wondered how it would look if someone ever used a quote of mine… I am so glad I did and it fits so well right? or this from The ALiens on the Moon and how they Knocked my World Wonky.. which actually explains it well..

    “I am a curious person. I like to know why. If I know of something or I am asked to do something or somebody is doing something, I want to know why. I have to know why just to keep my world in order. I conceptualize where I fit into the scheme of things by knowing the explanation things. The more I know about the wheres and whys the more comfortable I feel. ”

    so asking why is what I do. I think that to others I appear distrustful and it isn;t about that because I am not questioning motives – even when I should be.. I just want to know why..what drove the nto do what they are doing..why do they need me around.. If someone acts out of character… I want to know why.

    I am genuinely interested when I ask a question, even the stand by what;s up or how are you, but before they are half way through the standard repsonse I am on to the next thing. And yes with more effort I could focus on them more and at least hear the answer before I go on.. with a very willful effort..

    the questions that are most interesting to me are the ones you are not expected to ask and in person is the best time to do it.

    the last question I asked was…
    Lizzie Cracked recently posted..Strength in Weakness, Mid-Afternoon Mental MomentMy Profile

    • I am genuinely interested…or I simply walk away. I am like that 🙂 <3

      • Red you are someone who, when I was much younger, in my 20 til I started figuring stuff out, I would have looked at with awe and wanted to be your friend but would not have risked attempting to be becasue even though I would have thought you were .. well the things that then would have had me wanting to be brave enough to be your friend and if I were one to be chatty … say things like how rude ( I wasn’t a mean girl ever!) while in my head think WOW! I wish I could do that… and think it not rude at all but smart… those are the things – among others, that at the age and place I am now , I appreciate in a friend. I appreciate them in you.
        I for some reason didn’t finish my comment… I was going to … oh I was seeing if I had ased a question on the first part… being a smartass I musta just pressed post lo…
        Love you much.. I am trying to gt into my Tweet… grrr..
        Lizzie Cracked recently posted..Strength in Weakness, Mid-Afternoon Mental MomentMy Profile

        • To be honest, Lizzie, my manner has prevented many people from ever approaching me. They mistake when I bite the heads off of the indolent that they may be fodder in my eyes. I am one of the most fair people to meet. But I think Clyde has a bit to say about that on the SEP, so I will leave you with this instead. I adore you, Lizzie. Your honesty and unabashed wonder with discovery makes you a joy to engage. You have come to the place in your life where you are dropping the filters and shining your light. Groucho was wrong. You are not letting it in. You are it.

          Much love,

          • is there a glowing exuberating emoticon .. ,, I need one because i have no words.. they never make the right emoticons.. thank you.. that means the whole world to me.
            Love you and am so glad you found me and I saw you.. or .. yea something like that 🙂 ok..
            I am off to do something but I am taking your words with me.. and keeping them close to my heart.,
            Lizzie <3
            Lizzie Cracked recently posted..Strength in Weakness, Mid-Afternoon Mental MomentMy Profile

  6. I found all my answers in books – in my family asking questions of my dad was tantamount to treason and mum had her own problems…

    When I looked after my soon to be God daughter Becky and her older sister Emily I found honest answers were the best thing – even if they led to even more questions! 🙂

    Love and hugs!

    prenin recently posted..Tuesday – Quiet day.My Profile

  7. Last question — what was it you needed to tell me when I fell asleep on you? Yes, I wanted to know. I didn’t want to fall asleep, but I did, and I wanted to make it right. He never really answered :(. My hubs asks questions, listens to the answers and remembers what was said. I tend to shy away from questions altogether if I can. I answer a lot of them from the 4 yo in. My life (and his older sibs). When I do ask, I want to know -the truth, not the pat answer. I don’t get that often, but I prefer it.
    Angela Young recently posted..Super Granny?My Profile

    • I think to get around the pat answer is to point out it is a press release rather than a weighed response. When I get it, mostly from people whose assumptions put me in stereotypical underinformed categories, I define precisely why their cheat sheet answer does not satisfy my query. Some days, it makes me informed and respected, others just a wench who wants someone to answer her questions. Either way, I still end up with the answer. Much better for self-worth to stand up and get the answer than settle for the one-size-fits-none answers provided.

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