When someone asks you a question, you are going to react either emotionally or cognitively. For example, you’ll either think about it a little bit, feel it physically, like you’re melting down, or you’ll immediately respond.
Cognitive responses, by the way, are our reactions to the questions we think we need to think about. We don’t actually need to think about them.
In fact, we can’t because our brains can’t compute them.
Emotional responses, by the way, are responses to the questions we think we need to feel. What does that even mean?
To feel something, do we have to feel sad, angry, happy, joyful? Feelings are intensely subjective, and we all have them at different levels and intensities.
Sometimes we feel sad or angry. Sometimes we feel happy.
The big apple fetish
Emotions and responses to questions are based on our values and preferences, which means that sometimes we respond to questions that are different for us than we do to questions that are different for someone else.
For example, imagine that I ask you, “What do you do for a living?” In that situation, I don’t want to know what you do to support yourself, nor do I want to know if you are male or female, religious, gay, straight, married, single, any age, any background, any country, any continent or all of the above.
I don’t want to know if you drive a car, if you are obese, smart, or unintelligent, whether you are religious or not if you’re a cat lover.
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It makes absolutely no difference to me, and I don’t need to know any of those things about you. I’m just curious. I’m just trying to understand you.
But what if my curiosity strikes you as predatory? What if you feel that I have already come to a judgment about you?
What if you think that I’m just fishing for information about you to use against you at a later date? What if you feel that I think you’re of less value than someone else? I will ask about her job?
That’s the question I call the big apple fetish. It’s probably why many people won’t respond to questions that they think they need to answer for themselves, even when the person asking the questions is not trying to be pushy or pushy-minded.
Questioning as a method of education
But here’s the good news: Asking questions does not mean you’re seeking to teach the other person what to think or what to feel. You’re actually learning how to ask questions to know what you need to know.
When I was in graduate school studying cognitive psychology, I read an article in which a researcher introduced foundational questions, which are questions that everyone needs to know how to ask.
These were the questions we used when we were toddlers: “Are you tired? Do you want a bottle? Can I carry you?” Once you know how to ask them, those foundational questions will give you a direct way to communicate with almost anyone.
Questions are powerful
If you never learn how to ask them, you’re going to be at a disadvantage in every arena in life, from work to romance to romance. If you don’t learn how to ask them, you will never really understand other people because you won’t really understand yourself.
We know from scientific studies that we all learn one language once we’re on the planet: our first language is the one we’re born with. Then in our first five years of life, we all learn another language, and that language is “conversation,” which is the language of questions.
Children who learn to ask questions master conversation.
Throughout our lives, we still acquire knowledge in one language and apply it in another. That’s why education is such a vital human necessity.
It’s so important that if you ask me, “What do you do?” I can’t even begin to respond until I’ve asked you, “Why do you ask me that?” and “What do you want to know?” and “How does this relate to me?” If I don’t ask you those questions, then we don’t really communicate.
We don’t communicate because if I ask you “What do you do?” and you say, “I’m a garbage collector,” I don’t know what that means, and so I’ll have to infer it, and infer it, and infer it.
Now I’m at a loss for how to proceed. It’s a waste of time for both of us. But if you say, “Well, I’m a garbage collector because I love what I do,” I know what it means and can respond. If you say, “I’m a doctor,” I know what it means and can respond.
If you say, “I’m a garbage collector because my grandfather was a garbage collector,” I can respond.
Answering questions will make you rich
Ask questions, learn how to ask questions. Your ability to ask questions can change your life. Ask these questions, and the other person will learn what you need to know.
And the other person will be grateful for the knowledge. She might ask you your questions, and you can do the same.
After you’ve learned the basic questions, use your curiosity to find out more. Ask these questions, and you will get rich.
Always ask open-ended questions to open-ended questions.