Don’t Ask

What is one question you hate to be asked? Explain.

-Wordpress writing prompt

Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. I generally encourage people to ask me questions because I strongly believe that they help us increase our understanding about the world and each other. Today, I want to talk about what I don’t want you to ask me.

For me, there isn’t a single question that I hate getting asked. There are several that I am asked all the time and I still don’t mind answering them. There are even questions that I don’t understand why I get asked, but again I don’t mind the question. And I don’t feel that there are questions that are particularly stupid. What does bother me are the times that people ask questions that they don’t want an answer to. This annoys me beyond measure. Don’t ask if you don’t want an answer.

This isn’t to say that I object to the rhetorical question. There are times that asking a question while you are making your point is a good way of making that point. But many people claim to be using a rhetorical question when they really weren’t. It isn’t a rhetorical question if you are not clarifying a point that you are making by asking the question. This means that more often then not, people are not asking a question as part of their rhetoric (or persuasive speaking). If you are not actively engaged in trying to persuade me of something then it is not possible for your question to be rhetorical.

An example of the type of question that I object to people asking me is how I am feeling and then expecting me to give you a lie. Why ask me how I am doing if the only acceptable response is “fine” or “good”? Why are you asking this question if you don’t want to know how I am doing? Another example is when people ask me what I think about something with the expectation that I will simply agree with what they have already said. Don’t ask me for my opinion if you don’t want it.

Sometimes, these questions happen as a function of small talk. People will ask questions as a way of greeting each other without the expectation of receiving any form of response and they most definitely don’t expect to receive an honest or in depth one. Other times, these questions happen because the person is seeking validation for their own world views or opinions and are asking another person to agree with them as a way to affirm their self identity. My distaste for these questions isn’t a lack of understanding their social function.

I dislike these types of questions for a couple of reasons. The first is that I feel that there is always a better way to meet the social function then to ask a question you are not seeking the answer to. If you want to greet someone, simply say hello. The second reason is that I personally think that validation for your identity can only come from within ourselves. Any time we seek an external validation we risk rejection. I also believe that a person should always endeavor to separate their identity, self worth and value from any belief system they hold. The moment we attach our ego to an idea is the moment we make it impossible for that idea to be challenged without our ego also being challenged.

Lastly, I think that these kinds of questions serve as walls rather then as doorways. When we ask each other questions with the expectation that they are only answered in prescribed ways, we are not allowing that person to answer authentically or honestly. This reduces the amount of intimacy we can achieve in our interactions. When we ask each other questions with a genuine interest and curiosity, we are inviting the other person to open themselves to us. When we ask questions without seeking understanding, we are closing ourselves off from one another and choosing not to seek an understanding with their perceptions of the world.

Today, I invite you to ask a loved one how they are feeling with an invitation for them to honestly answer the question. If they give you a superficial answer, then dive deeper by asking them “what is making it fine instead of good?” or “what has been making things good lately?” Encourage them to tell you more about their lives and see how open questions with the expectation of actual responses can change the way that you communicate with others.

Want to go even further? Ask someone what they think on a hot topic. Choose something controversial like gun laws, abortion, transgender rights etc. and ask them what their opinions are on the matter. Go into the topic with the intention of wanting to understand and wanting to agree with what they are saying. Encourage them to explain their ideas by asking clarifying questions, but never state your own opinion on the topic. If they ask you what you think on the topic state that you’d really like to better understand their opinion and believe you can do that best without clouding things with your own thoughts on the topic. When we allow others to fully express their beliefs, we allow ourselves to better explore our own.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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