Asking What Questions Instead of Why Questions

The thoughts behind a week experiment, of asking what questions rather than why ones.

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Photo by mari lezhava on Unsplash

A long ago, I was listening to a talk with Marshall Rosenberg. He talked about the fact that there are no “Why” questions. Only badly asked “What” questions. Some philosopher showed him that every why question can be translated into a what question.

Now, what is the value. What I remember is, that with each why questions we can spiral into this: “Why it happened like this?” while with what you would go like this: “What happened to me?” Even when reading it now one can see, they are more, how would I say it. The what questions feels more actionable than the why. Why is almost like too unclear, what to even answer.

“Why are you like this” “Why haven’t you put those shoes there?” “Why is the sky blue” See? Actually the last one sounds nice.

A guy from an audience stood up and said: “Bullshit”. I just laughed at the scene. But he had a question and that was: “So we shouldn’t ask why questions? Why can’t we…” and he answered with: “What is the need behind your why question?” Then they mumbo jumbo, philosophy battles, and stuff till Marshall finally said: “Look, it’s maybe not about the why or what question. You can use both. Maybe it’s more about how you ask the question? What is your approach to it?” something along those lines. Memory don’t be with me please.

And I started thinking, let’s exchange each why to a what question. Well, I did for a day and enjoyed it a year ago or so. I remember that it was hard from the start. You almost like get stuck always translating it to what ones. Similarly when you try to speak in a new language. And that’s probably why I stopped. But it seems like I could do it for a week again now and see what would happen.

“Why do you want to do it?” I can answer: “Why do you ask? Because, I do!”

“What is the source of that need.” Well, not to get lost. Bring more clarity and precision to my questions.

Do you see it there? To actually ask myself questions to move me forward. Somewhere. See how I am arguing it out now for myself.

What color is the sky: Blue. Why?

Here is maybe the difference. The what questions bring you to present. To observe what is here, now. While why questions, let you to search. To search for the interpretations, explanation of what is happening in the now. Not that I don’t like searches or investigations, but sometimes it’s to anxiety producing till you finally don’t find the right answer. Oh boy, and sometimes it’s not the right one and you are lost in the land of stories.

The whole article is just exchange the why question to what question. I would probably commit to an experiment for a certain period of time. I don’t like those restrictions, but it’s more of an observation for a week. One week, thats the duration of an experiment.

There was this feeling of resistance while thinking about it. And I had an idea how to solve it. I would split the day to what questions till half of the day and just being free the rest. Yep that sounds better. I would fiddle with it along the way.

Oh, yeah exchanging the but ones with and ones could come next week. “I’m coming for you butt!”



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