Ask What, Not Why
December 10, 2020
When things don’t go as per plan or when something we don’t like happens, we get into a reflective mood, trying to make sense of what happened.
We introspect, and it typically takes the form of questions we ask ourselves that goes something like this.
- “Why did I get into a fight with my partner?”
- “Why did I choke in that meeting?”
- “Why did my boss not give me a good performance rating?”
Unfortunately, when we ask ourselves “Why” questions, they rarely lead us to the truth. Far from it, they take us farther away from the truth.
We can kid ourselves that we are incredibly self-aware and know what is happening in our heads. But, we have no clue most of the time.
Many of us suffer so many deep-rooted subconscious beliefs that impact how we think, feel, or behave. The fact that they are subconscious means we have no idea they are there. And they are certainly not available to our conscious mind for evaluation.
The truth is, however hard we try, we cannot excavate and bring out our unconscious beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and motives.
Therefore, when we ask ourselves the “Why” questions, our mind looks for the lazy and easy answers that feel true to our ego. We invent alternative facts to rationalize the issue. And, we end up with answers to the Why questions that look like this.
Q-Why did my boss not give me a good rating?
A-He never really liked the work I did, and he never told me what I was not doing right.
Q-Why did I get into a fight with my partner?
A-My partner is always unreasonable. It’s always about him. He can’t see what is happening.
Q-Why did I choke in that meeting?
A-Because I was not better prepared.
Ask WHAT Instead Of WHY
“Why” questions will always elicit a post mortem reasoning and we get stuck with the problem without really moving forward.
Asking yourself questions starting with a WHAT can dramatically shift your perspective when dealing with challenges and setbacks.
- If you get a bad performance rating, don’t ask yourself, “why did I not get a good review.” Instead, ask yourself, “What could I have done to demonstrate to my boss that I deserved a better rating.”
- You come out of an argument with your partner. Don’t ask yourself, “Why did I get into a fight with my partner.” Instead ask yourself, ” What did I do that contributed to this altercation” or “What could I have done to not get into this scrap.”
- You choke in your presentation. Instead of asking yourself, ” why did I choke in the presentation,” ask yourself, ” What happened that caused me to choke.”
“WHAT” questions force introspection and help elicit insights to declutter any situation. They force us to consider what is in our control instead of looking for reasons externally. They force us to look for answers instead of reasons.
Effective introspection happens only when we ask ourselves questions that enlighten us and help us move forward. I encourage you to make this simple shift in your introspection approach. You will derive significant benefit in your ability to resolve your dilemmas.