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"Don't ask a question if the answer won't change your behaviour"

McKinley Valentine — 2 min read
"Don't ask a question if the answer won't change your behaviour"
Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Unfortunately I've forgotten where I read this, but I think it's an interesting/good piece of advice. Obviously not in general (if you didn't like knowledge for knowledge's sake you wouldn't be reading The Whippet) but for advicey stuff.

I think it's also a sign you're circling and seeking more information to put off making a decision. Like if I'm tying to decide whether to go to a party or not (a decision I find constantly paralysing) I will say things like "who's going to be there?" when really, it's the same-ish group of people every time. I'm just procrastinating on the decision.

Or I'm secretly hoping they'll answer "oh, that serial killer who's also a tedious conversationalist" so I can stay home without any FOMO.

Another angle is that if you're going to go into a confrontation with someone, you should go in knowing what you want them to do. (Weirdly this is like being a writer and giving yourself a brief, which I do a lot.) As in: "I want them to apologise for x" or "I want them to stop checking their phone when we're on dates" or whatever. It can be "I want them to understand that x makes me feel sad" but honestly that's a 50/50 chance at best. People can't always understand, even when they really try, because they're different to you. Going in with a behavioural change you want them to make will get better results. (You cannot go into a conversation with the proposed outcome of "I want them to know they're a bad person and feel bad about it", That is both pointlessly cruel and unlikely to end up fixing anything.)

That said, sometimes I get so caught up in needing to have a proposed action item that I don't tell my husband things I'm sad about because I can't think of a solution. This is no good because a) it withers the connection, you need to know where each others' head is at, and b) sometimes he has solutions that haven't occurred to me.

So I guess grain of salt on that one.

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #51 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

Unsolicited AdviceEQ & Interpersonal


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