As a lawyer, one of my most important jobs is to persuade people to vote for my client. There has been a lot of science recently about how peoples’ minds work, the best persuasion techniques to use to get people to agree with your position, and other things like that.
Over Spring Break this year, I purchased a hypnosis course. No, not the kind of the hypnosis where you wave a watch in front of somebody and make him jump around like a monkey. Instead, I was interested in learning more about how therapists use hypnosis to help their patients see the world in a different way.
The course was phenomenal, I learned a lot of very important things. Perhaps the thing that struck with me most was how to ask appropriate questions.
What to ask instead of “Why?”
When somebody is having problems, or issues of some sort, whether that be sadness, anger, problems at work, or whatever, we all have a tendency to ask “Why?” We think that this shows that we are empathizing with the other person and trying to help them.
Brain science says that “Why?” is the worst question you can ask somebody who is in a troubled state.
Why would that be the case? So for example, let’s say your spouse says she’s feeling upset. The natural human tendency is to ask, “Why are you upset, honey?” In fact, until I took the hypnosis course last week, that’s exactly what I’ve always done. I‘ve always thought that if I ask “Why?” that it would show that I care and I’m concerned about the other person.
The problem is it doesn’t work. When you ask somebody why, you literally force their brain to search for reasons to justify why they are currently feeling the way they feel. You’re actually making matters worse. So to take the example I just used, if your spouse says he or she is upset about something, and you ask them why they’re upset, their brain will search for all the reasons to justify why they feel the way they do.
Better questions are available. The two best ways to ask questions when somebody comes to you in a problematic state is to ask either “how?” or “what?” type of questions. So again, to use the example we’ve been using to write this article, if your spouse comes to you because he or she is upset, rather than ask why they are upset, ask, “How can I help you feel better?” Or ask, “What can I do to help you?”
Asking the right questions helps people see past their problems and find solutions
Do you see the difference? When you ask somebody how or what questions, instead of forcing their brains to ruminate on the problems they’re already having, you force their brains to look for solutions to the problems. It’s really a miraculous way to help people see past their problems and look for solutions.
So now that you know this, why would you ever do anything different? What about maybe trying to incorporate this into your own life? How many ways do you think this may help you?