repost: why vs. how

If you’re stuck, consider asking “how” instead of “why.”

I’ve realized most of the questions keeping me up at night start with why: Why did she say that? Why does he feel that way? Why didn’t that client call back? Why hasn’t this relationship worked out? And why does it bother me so much? (That’s an especially fun one, as it blends “I shouldn’t feel the way I do” WITH the unpleasant question. Not recommended for beginners.)

Why questions about ourselves can be helpful—it’s good to consider our own issues and the way we contribute to problems. But why questions about other people are usually unanswerable–in the moment, at least, and usually longer. As such, they provide lots of opportunities for the overactive imagination to create its own answers, which—especially in the wee hours—are rarely positive and logical. (At 2 a.m., “The client went with another freelancer because he’s the owner’s nephew” will never win out over “The client hated my work and I’m going to lose all my jobs and have to work at Baskin Robbins.”)

So I’m learning to ask how questions instead.

“Why didn’t she want to have lunch?” becomes “How can I keep making new friends and broadening my community?”

“Why does that client ask my advice and then ignore it?” becomes “How can I find more projects with leaders who are ready to move forward?”

“Why didn’t God give me what I want?” becomes “How can I give God what he wants from me?” (ouch.)

This technique is WAY easier to explain than to do (at least for those of you who, like me, long for closure and logical explanations. Often my biggest question is “How can I deal with not knowing the why?”). But if I’m going to over-think something, at least I’m starting with better questions.

What why question are you asking right now? What how question can replace it?

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