Never Ask Why
If I could ban one word from the English language, what would that be?
Ok, so I’m sitting thinking and words that come into my mind are greed – poverty – rape – violence – elitism – pain – ignorance.
BUT – banning the words doesn’t get rid of what they represent.
So, if I could STOP my self using one word – what would that be? It has to be WHY
And why would I do that?
Well, “why” demands, “why” seeks justification, “why” threatens and, “why” leaves us feeling insecure.
We are so used to asking “why” we don’t even think about what is happening. We see something (mostly something that we don’t understand) and we say “why did you do that?”
Immediately the person being asked assumes that whatever “it” is, it must be wrong – there must be a fault, someone is to blame – and YOU are blaming THEM. So they start defending, justifying and off-loading blame quickly.
If you’ve ever spent time with a toddler going through the “why” stage, remember what it was like? Over and over and over again, everything you say is greeted with “why?” Remember when you couldn’t take “why” anymore. Then you snap and you say… “BECAUSE”… and a little voice says “why?”
You learn to hate answering questions and children stop asking…and that horrible journey into our spirit being stifled begins….
OK – so what can you do about it?
Well, when something happens, instead of asking “why”, try asking “what” or “how”.
When you do this, you are moving your question from the emotional justification into the mechanical explanation. Like this:
Someone has just broken your favourite ornament. “How did that happen?” You’re more likely to get an honest explanation of events leading up to the breakage. You then understand what happened and realise that a) it was an accident; b) you left it in a vulnerable place or c) this person is clumsy, but it wasn’t done out of malice.
At work, someone files your report in the most illogical place. “What was the reason for filing it there?” You listen. You understand. With this new information you a) know how this person’s mind works; b) learn an easier way to do something and/or c) understand your own communication and how you could have explained yourself better.
Ask WHY to any of the above and you would have got “it wasn’t me” or “I don’t know” or “BECAUSE”
And in their mind, the other person would be thinking “you’re always picking on me, it’s always my fault, I never can please you, you think I do this just to make life difficult, I really hate being here, you’re always criticising me….just go away…” And they are searching for the words they think you want to hear, rather than just the truth about “what” or “how”
So, you have one defensive, demoralised, unmotivated person – one relationship is more distant – lines of communication become more foggy and you still don’t know the what or how, the who the where or the when – the thing you really wanted to know when you said “why”.
And that’s why I want to ban WHY!