The other night I received a call from a research group asking me questions about the likelihood of my voting in the up-coming and future elections. As I answered the questions I eagerly awaited the opportunity to explain myself – but it never came. Doesn’t the DNC want to know “why” I won’t be voting in an election? What value does my answer have without the knowledge of what could change it?
As I thought about it, I realized that “Why?” is missing from many of our conversations. “Why” is an essential part of our knowledge base in learning how to get along with one another. It teaches us how to meet each other’s needs. It provides us with an explanation and a deeper ability to understand each other. Without it, we are guessing our way through our lives and our relationships.
Imagine you asked your boss for his opinion on your work. If he says it’s unsatisfactory, don’t you need to know “Why?” so that you can fix it? What if your spouse doesn’t want to talk about her day. Do you ask her “Why not?” If not how do you know if she’s upset with you or something else that occurred in her day? Some people view these basic questions as intrusive or even inappropriate. But Asking “why” is essential to our development.
In asking people about their reluctance to ask “Why?” I get a handful of similar responses:
“I don’t want to offend them.”
“If they wanted me to know, they would have told me.”
“I don’t really want to know why. (The answer may hurt me)”
“I don’t want an argument.”
The problem for many, may be in the delivery.
“Why?” – Can be asked in more than one way. It can be asked as a challenge to the other person or it can be asked with genuine curiosity. Those reluctant to ask the question tend to think of it as the former – as taking a position of debate or demonstrating discord. For them, avoiding the question seems to be the most appropriate response. It avoids an argument or conflict. However, when “Why?” is asked with curiosity, it invites a discussion in a positive way. It shows your respect for the answer you were given and your interest to understand the reasons behind it. This basic question allows you to learn the other person’s needs, thereby making it possible for you to meet them.
Consider asking “Why?” in this thoughtful and curious way. See what you learn, and see how your relationships develop.