How Do We Ask Questions

How do we ask questions? For some of you that have listened to me for a while, or maybe I have coached you, or we’ve had a discussion, you know one of my favorite sayings is, “Be curious, not critical.” What we’re going to talk about today has to do with the way that we ask questions to our kids, our spouse, friends, family, and business partners. Curiosity is when we ask questions. Are we asking questions out of curiosity to give someone a safe place where they can respond, where they’re happy to respond, where they’re giving you information and sharing information, or are we asking questions because they feel like you’re interrogating them? One of my clients and I were just having a conversation about this today. She had read a book, and she was telling me that sometimes the way people ask questions sounds more interrogative than it is out of curiosity. It reminded me of how I’ve been teaching families for years to stay away from the question, “Why?”

When we ask somebody, “Why?” “Why did you not get your shoes on?” or “Why did you pick those shoes?” or “Why didn’t you eat breakfast?” or “Why haven’t you cleaned your room yet?” Maybe it’s like, “Why did you go to that store?” Even though we think we ask questions out of curiosity, the person receiving that information feels like you’re interrogating them. The brain automatically goes to this response, “Oh gosh! I don’t know why I didn’t? Why did I go to the store? Should I not go to that store? Maybe I should? Maybe I shouldn’t have?” It’s like we have to defend, “Why isn’t your room clean?” “Oh gosh! If I tell her the right answer, am I going to get in trouble? Am I going to upset my mom? Am I not going to be enough again?”

Sometimes the way we ask these questions makes our children and spouses feel like they’re being interrogated, and we’re not being curious. What’s another way that we can ask these questions? What’s another way that we can get the response that we want from a conversation? We want our kids, especially, to feel safe knowing that they can come to us and talk to us about anything and that we’re not going to judge them. It’s like a judgment-free zone. Instead of saying, “Why didn’t you clean your room?” you could say, “What time do you think your room’s going to be done by? Is there a certain time that you want to clean your room by?” or What has to happen to get your room cleaned? “That might sound more like a curiosity than interrogating them. 

Again, it’s also the tonality; it’s, Oh, you went to that store; that’s interesting. I was thinking about that store; what made you go to that one?” Something like that with a conversation where that person doesn’t feel that you’re interrogating them about what store they went to or how their day was. Just be mindful. Be mindful of the tonality that you’re using when you’re asking questions and the type of questions you’re asking. Try to stay away from that word “Why.” Sometimes I find myself in that trap too; I’m like, “Why did you do that? and I’m like, “Oh! I shouldn’t have asked the question “Why.” What’s a better way to ask that question? I always say, “Ask a better question and get a better answer.”

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