No More Why

What is the most challenging question you can be asked? What is the most difficult question to answer?


Doesn’t that question just make you tense and nervous? I know it has that effect on me!

What is it about this question that makes it so challenging?

I have been giving this some thought. And here is my answer.

There is NO GOOD ANSWER! Or the person simply doesn’t know (therefore can’t tell you why)!

Why questions to other people are also often emotionally loaded questions. There is often an implied subtext, an implied level of blame or shame. Do we seek information or an explanation? If information is our true purpose, then beginning with the word why may not be the best idea.

Why tends to create defensiveness. I know it does for me. I find it does for most others too. It puts pressure on a person to justify themselves, their behavior, their motivation.

So let’s say we truly are seeking information from others. How we can do this and not use “why”?

The answer is “newspaper questions.” Begin questions with “how”, “when”, “where”, “who” or “what”.

So, rather than “why did you do X?”, instead ask:

“What happened right before you made that choice?”
“How you were feeling that day?”
“Where were you when that happened?”
“Who else was around at the time?”
“When did it all begin?”
“What happened next?”

These types of questions tend to prompt more useful information and discussion, for both you and anyone else involved.

Even when you are having a talk with yourself, I suggest you stop asking yourself those pesky “why” questions. It creates internal defensiveness and various bad feelings. Instead use newspaper questions to create a more productive dialogue with yourself.

I did this the other day about my food and weight issues. It was much more productive then past talks with myself have been. There was more information for me to work with. Less shame feelings.

Now, the big question of WHY do things happen in life…bad things…that is a whole separate topic. I will address another time.

Best wishes in your future communications!

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