Julie, a student of mine, called me up crying one morning.
Wondering what in the blazes was making her so upset, I dug in for some details.
Upon finding out that her and her husband had a huge fight, I began to search for the problem because when fights occur, there’s always a miscommunication involved.
So I persuaded her to try and talk to her husband and get them both on the phone so we could resolve this negative situation. He agreed.
Here’s how the conversation went:
Julie: “So yeah, Ted (her husband) thinks I complain too much and that I never tell him what’s on my mind.
Me: “Is this true Ted?”
Ted: “I just don’t understand why she always nags and complains and why she never tells me what’s on her mind. She always makes me guess.”
Me: “Stop right there. Listen Ted, the both of you, right now I want you to think of a characteristic that you’d like to change about yourself. Not your spouse, but yourself. Got it?”
Ted: “Ummm, okay I can do that.”
Me: “Are you thinking of something Ted?”
Me: Ok great. Now, as you think about that behavior, let me ask you: why do you always never seem to be able to change that? And notice how your mind is going to show you exactly that – all the things that prevent you from being able to change that. Am I right?
Me: “The problem with asking the question *why* is not helpful at all. It doesn’t allow you to make changes. Instead, it only allows you to focus on the problem when really; you want to be focusing on the solution.”
Ted: “That makes sense.”
Me: “Great. You see, instead you could ask “what is?” Or, “How can we change this?” Or “What’s the best approach to solving this problem?” Does that make sense?”
Me: "And when you do that -- especially with others, it doesn't aggravaget them, does it? Not at all. You see, what you told me Ted was that you don’t understand why she behaves a certain way. But guess what? She knows why. You don’t need to. You need to find out what the both of you can do right away to change what’s irritating you in a constructive way, and asking why just doesn’t work.
Julie: “Thank you.”
Me: “Now just hold on a minute, Ted, think about the behavior that you don’t like in Julie, and come up with a question you can ask her right now that is more constructive than asking why.
Ted: (Silence) Me: “Go ahead, you can ask her without any consequence.”
Ted: “Julie, why.. ahem…
Ted: “I guess I just don’t understand it. You complain to me all the time about things that you don’t like about me. So I ask you, what is it that I can do for you so that we can put a stop to this?”
Me: “That’s a fantastic step, Ted. Now Julie, could you answer that for him?”
Julie: “Yes, I can. You’re right Ted, I do complain a bit too much. I really complain because you don’t give me the attention like you used to. You’d rather watch TV or surf the Internet without even noticing I’m there. What can I do so that you pay attention to me more?”
Me: “Sounds to me like you two are now on the right track. Do you think you both can sit down and talk things out constructively without my assistance?”
Ted: “Yes, I think we can.”
Julie: Nathan, thank you so much. I think Ted and I as we look at each other right now understand more about how we should work things out.” (She’s catching on to hypnotic talking!)
Me: “Yes, it is. And remember that next time, if you find yourselves in a quarrel, to stop and think if you asked *why* because chances are, you probably did.”
Ted: “Nathan, thanks a lot.
Julie: “Yes, Nathan, thank you.
Me: “You two have a good talk, and a fantastic rest of the day.”
Julie: “We will.”
Me: “Bye now.”
The above conversation speaks for itself. Notice how the word *why* can cause you too many problems. If you’re human, you’ll always be curious of reasons. This is just how we are.
However, consider you’re trying to close a big deal, it falls through and you ask yourself “why does this always happen to me?” Your mind is going to give you all the reasons why you didn’t make the sale. It doesn’t build your confidence.
You see things that you don’t like. And there’s no option or choices that your mind makes available to you either, when you ask the question why.
Instead, stay away from that trap and start asking yourself (and others) questions that have a purpose, a changing force that’ll lead you towards solving the problem.
On the flip side of this, what happens if you do something successfully or feel good? Don’t you think you’d like to know the reason why? Too many times people tell you to stay away from the question why.
But in language, it’s there for a reason, otherwise it wouldn’t exist! So use it to learn about your strong points, to build your self-esteem, image, courage, vigor, confidence and so on.
Just don’t use it when you’re upset or focused on what you don’t want.
P. S. Why do you always come back to this site to read my blog posts? Why do you find value in them? Why do you like me? Why do you believe I’m the world’s greatest covert hypnotist?