Great listeners listen to understand. Lousy ones listen to reply. Here’s another truth. Great listeners also know how to ask so they get a meaningful answer.
In this post you’ll discover how to formulate your questions the right way so you will be able to get your spouse to open up—no matter how distant they feel.
Stop Asking Why
Unless you deliberately want to negate something, or deliberately make your spouse stubborn about something, stop asking questions starting with why.
“Why didn’t you …”
“Why did you …”
- The person asked doesn’t know or hasn’t thought about it.
- The person asked does know, but doesn’t want to tell you. Many times, this is because they expect you might not like what you’ll hear. They may feel pressure to give answers they think you do want to hear.
‘Why’ Begets Justification With ‘Because’
The answer to “why” is always “because”—and so your spouse will feel confronted and obligated to provide a reason, even if they’re not quite sure what that answer is, just yet.
With every additional ‘why,’ the person digs deeper and deeper, while you’re not getting any new information at all.
Even if you deconstruct the word “justification,” you’ll find two words: justice and fiction.
You get the point?
Here’s what you can do instead.
The 5 Magic Questions
The five magic questions are “magical” because they lead to the underlying concern surprisingly fast. That’s because in their nature they are open-ended, and help the other person to explain.
This is directly the opposite of answering why, which makes the person even more entrenched, and they are more effective than asking questions that garner simple yes or no responses.
The five magic questions are:
How do you know?
What do you mean?
What makes you think that?
What makes this so important for you?
When did this begin?
Where did it happen?
Who told you that?
Formulated just a little differently the questions above “encourage” the other person to clarify their answer.
This brings clarity. Instead of bringing opposition and entrenchment in previous positions, it invites insight.
The fact is, words matter.
That’s because they affect how we think. Our thoughts influence our feelings. Our feelings determine our actions—the things we say and do. We can communicate more effectively to bring about better outcomes in our relationships by avoiding ‘why’ questions.
By the way, that also holds true for talking to your children.
QUESTION: Try it yourself! Let’s hear your feedback right here. You can leave a comment by clicking here.