The Worst “Why” Question to ask Ever

August 28, 2013

Martha Germann
Founder, Mindful Games Institute LLC

In my last blog post “Sometimes it is Best to Not Ask ‘Why’”,  I talked about how the question “why” can be counter-productive due to the conditioned defensive response many of us have when we are asked a “why” question.

As it turns out, wondering or asking “why” may not always be of value to the inquirer either.

I have a friend who is going through a divorce and her soon to be ex-husband is doing things that seem to be unfair and spiteful.

On several occasions, she has asked “why is he doing this?” Though in the next breath, she will tell me that she knows exactly why and that the answer just confirms her worst fear.

Even if she is right, what has she gained from asking the question in the first place? Will she change her behavior because she knows his motives? Asking “why” distracts her from a more important question.

What does she want in this situation and how can she influence a good result?

If we are always basing our behavior in reference to why others are behaving the way they do, we will keep losing focus on our intended goal.

If my friend wants things to work out the best for everyone, and her husband is behaving counter to that desire, changing her tactics to “not let him get away with it” will take her away from her intended goal. If she starts to find ways to get back at her husband, or to not let him take advantage of her, the goal is no longer about things working out the best for everyone, including her.

For my friend, “what” questions may be more effective and beneficial. What does she want in the situation? What does her husband want? She can then focus on finding ways to work towards that end.

And the “Why” question that you will want to avoid at all costs…

“Why does this always happen to me?” – “Why me?” for short.

Just asking this question puts us in victim mode and has us feeling powerless.  To make matters worse, the answer we usually give ourselves is the answer we are most afraid of and don’t want to hear – that we deserved whatever bad has happened.

Asking “why me?” and searching for an answer usually ends up putting us in a downward spiral. When you hear yourself asking that question, use it to remind yourself to ask an alternative question such as:

  • How does this situation help me to become clear about what I would prefer to have happen?
  • What can I do that will progress me in the direction of what I want?

This will get you into a mindful game of thriving.