Do you often ask people why they have done something or why they think a certain way?
If so, you may have difficulties making connections and communicating properly. Without even realizing it, you might be pushing away your friends, coworkers, and family members by simply asking one question: “Why?” Although you may think that asking this question can help bring you closer to someone, it only creates distance.
There are 3 things you need to know before asking “Why?”
“Why?” can make people defensive. More specifically, it tells people that you are questioning their choices, opinions, words, and behaviors. To better understand this, notice how you feel when you hear the following questions:
- “Why did you do that?”
- “Why would you think this?”
- “Why do you say so?”
- “Why are you angry?”
- “Why does this matter to you?”
If you feel attacked and criticized, it is only because the word why implies judgment.
2. It implies you are superior.
In addition to making people defensive, “Why?” makes them believe that you view them as inferior. Christine Hammond gives an example of this as she explains that in your partner’s eyes, your “Why” questions can elevate you “to more of a parental role” rather than a partnership. Even though your intentions may be pure and simple (to understand instead of confront), it can still make the people around you feel interrogated.
3. It can be avoided.
You can still ask for clarification without using “Why” questions. Taking this further, rather than using “Why”, try the following alternatives:
- “Can you expand on this further?”
- “I’m sorry, I do not understand, would you explain?”
- “You seem to be angry, did something happen?”
- “Where do your beliefs stem from?”
These questions convey your curiosity and interest in the other person without making them feel like they are being judged.
The way we speak and how we express ourselves matters.
Next time, choose your words carefully – they can make all the difference.