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March 19, 2014

Why Do We Answer A Question With A Question?

Questions, questions, questions!

What’s it like for you when you ask someone a simple question and they respond with a question rather than a simple answer? For example:
“What time do you arrive in the office (or home)?”
“Why?”

 

That response may be comfortably received and understood or it could elicit frustration and more! The response, when a simple question like that, is not offensive when it is clearly a stalling tactic to think through what the person wants to say, or when it could be the person does not understand what the other is addressing in the question and so they ask a question to further define how they need to answer. Those are simple and understandable circumstances. It may be that the responder is making assumptions about why the asker is posing the question! This can truly lead the communication awry! Assumptions need to be avoided.

 

What can make the question in response to a question frustrating is when there is a defensiveness that stops the person from simply answering. What are they defending or defending against? The answer is going to be in their perception of the question and the person asking the question. Sometimes, there is an anger – subtle, but anger – that says I don’t want to answer you. Maybe it is because they perceive the other as controlling. Sometimes there is guilt and the person doesn’t want to answer because it may be revealing something not good. Sometimes it is a lack of trust. The question came across too intrusive or intimate. I could go on and on.

 

Often, the first person answers that question and finds the entire conversation got turned around and is now headed in a different direction than he or she intended. A simple, brief interaction has now become a complex interaction. It could become a power struggle or a competition. In those cases the anger can quickly become a part of the interaction.

 

When that happens, if it affects you in any way, it is important to identify it. Then you can ask the other person what stopped them from simply answering. If you are willing, you may even ask if it is something they perceive about you that stopped them from spontaneously and freely answering you.

 

If you hear your Self answering a question with a question, see if you can take a moment and feel what it is you are perceiving about the other person, the question, and/or the situation. What stopped you from answering the question and then posing your question? Be as honest with your Self as you can. What are you learning about the relationship? What are you learning about your Self.

 

If each person will pay attention to questions that are not answered directly but with “non answers” and then address the situation, it would stop the communication from going off topic. It would, also, stop the possible building of frustration which leads to anger. Everyone wants to be heard. In these situations if you are the asker, you are not being heard or addressed immediately. If you are the one answering with a question, you are not speaking your truth and are pushing against the other in some way.

 

If you have any specific questions regarding this pattern in your life or business partnership, please feel free to call or send your question anonymously to AskKristen@KristenBomas.com.

 

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