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Home arrow Blog arrow Asking Questions And Challenging Authority

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Asking Questions And Challenging Authority Print
Written by Mike Noel   
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
You've heard the saying "There's no such thing as a bad question".  That has been a mini-motto for much of my life.  Always asking questions.  Always trying to figure things out and understand.  Recently I've discovered how this can get me into trouble.  Not the "curiosity killed the cat" kind of trouble -- I can be careful enough to avoid that.  Instead, I've found that some people are threatened when you ask them questions.  I'm not entirely sure why but I have some guesses.

First, I'm thinking that the person feels that if you ask a question about something they said then you are implying that they are wrong.  In effect you are either saying they lied in what they said or they were not smart enough to be correct in what they said.  Taking that one step further, you are calling them a liar or calling them stupid.  I can see how this can lead to bad attitudes.  If I thought someone was insulting me everytime they questioned me about something I said then I would be irritated too.  I understand that.

The same sort of reasoning applies to questioning someone about something they did.  You are saying they did it wrong -- either on purpose or because of incompetence.   Again, I'd be bothered if I felt that way everytime someone questioned something I did.

My second guess, which I suppose is related to the first, is that the person is unsure of themselves and insecure.  Their confidence is fragile to the point that the first question to come along threatens to knock down everything they've built up.  If I have built a tower with bricks then I don't care at all if someone throws a pingpong ball at it.  But if I've built a tower out of cards then that innocent pingpong ball is a serious threat.  I'm not suggesting that the person's statement or actions really is built out of cards, but due to their lack of confidence they think that it is.  So the little question is a threat.

Finally, I think there is a basic irritation in having to explain yourself to someone else.  I don't know if this is due to a perceived challenge or not.  It could also be that the person just doesn't want to have to rehash something they've already been over a bunch of times.  Dealing with questions in that situation is just a waste of time and they would rather be doing something else.  Or they need to be doing something else.  

As I've been noticing that not everyone enjoys a good question I've started being more selective about when I ask questions and what I ask about.  Unfortunately this leaves me more in the dark about things I don't understand.  That's not a comfortable position for me but I can deal with it.


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