Why questions may be better than answers.

The other day I was at a watch store accompanying my mom to shop for a watch. After a detailed round of browsing, she picked out a fine, silver watch. The retail staff took it out of the glass display for my mother to have a closer look. My mother scrutinized it, furrowed her brows and placed it on the keep-in-view tray. She carried on with her search. Soon after, the tray was filled with watches. My mother heaved a deep sigh – she was spoilt for choice.

Perplexed, she asked the staff which design she should pick. Ooooh, tough question. The staff, who had been observing my mother for some time, smiled, very reassuringly, and said “the one that caught your eye.” My mother smiled back, nodded in agreement and made payment for the very first watch she picked out. Now I wasn’t completely sure if the staff knew exactly which watch my mom would pick, but one thing I knew for sure was that she is experienced enough to know that giving a blatant answer isn’t always the best thing to do.

We humans, are very odd creatures. We appear to involve others in making decisions but very often, we have already made up our mind. Many times, what we’re looking for isn’t advice but simply and only, affirmation. Everything else is dismissed as irrelevant or the lack of complete understanding of the situation. Some of the most respected people I know deal with selective perception in a very unconventional manner, and that is by asking questions.

Since we already have a prefixed perception, they answer our questions by asking us more questions. At the beginning, it seems a lil’ odd, like hello? why are you confusing me further? But in the process of answering their questions, I have come to realise what are my main considerations in decision-making and very subtly, discover possibilities other than my own self-proclaimed “best” decision.

In context of the watch anecdote, the sort of questions we can ask are: what type of watch are you looking for? Is durability or aesthetic appeal more important to you? Would you prefer one which suits your skin tone and wrist size or one which looks spectacular on its own? Is the brand a greater consideration than the uniqueness of the design?

If decisions are contained in boxes, then each time someone asks for your opinion, they are bringing you to a warehouse filled with boxes and asking you to guess which box they picked, in other words, finding a needle in a haystack.

Asking questions rips the packaging apart and places all the decisions on the table. Asking questions, in contrary to answering them directly, doesn’t set boundaries in the formation of opinions and overrules instinctual selective perceptions. Asking questions points people in a desired direction but allow room for deliberation.

It is, in my opinion, a very respectful and empathetic way of giving advice because well, nobody wants to hear the harsh truth and neither does anyone wants opinions forced down their throats. Because the truth is, as bystanders, we will never truly understand the situation from just verbal communication, neither will we be able to fully comprehend the exact feeling and thoughts that goes through their minds unless we experience it for ourselves, at that point of time, in their shoes.


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