Why Ask Why (When other questions will work so much better)?

Yesterday after work, my spousal unit and I started our usual how-was-your-day ritual. He reported on a project he’s just started and a meeting with a colleague from a previous job. I told him about the article I’m editing and a conversation I had with a colleague. I repeated an interesting statement made by a friend who works at the Department of Health: “The DOH is preparing for biological attacks,” I said.

“Why?” my husband asked.

“Because they believe it’s highly likely we’ll be hit with biologicals in this country,” I responded.

“Why?” my husband demanded.

“I guess they have evidence that convinces them an attack is likely,” I said.

“Why?” my husband barked.

“How the hell would I know!” I snapped.

I don’t have answers for all this biological threat stuff. I was annoyed.

And it’s not just me: I noticed a long time ago that WHY? is one of those questions that sets people off.

If you really want to know why, WHY may not be the question to ask. So how do you ask WHY without asking WHY?

Ask HOW: How does this request fit with our other priorities? How will this directive affect our customers?

Ask WHAT: What was the thinking that went into this proposal? What scenarios were considered in adding this feature?

Ask WHO: Who will benefit from this decision? Who had input into this strategy?

Make a request:: Say more about that… Tell me more…

Admit you are puzzled or curious: I’m puzzled by what you just said… I’m curious about….. I don’t understand….

I learn more about Why the less I use that question.