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Tuesday, 20 August 2019

One question says more than a thousand answers

Recently, I asked a question while looking at her: do you think we are a match? It was a genuine rather than a rhetorical question. However, asking that question was answering it, albeit to myself. She hesitated answering me. My question revealed a lack of mutual chemistry. Afterwards, I realised once again that asking questions is more dangerous than answering them.

The title of my blog is a paraphrase of another saying: a picture is worth a thousands words. Words can be meaningless. Deeds are usually meaningful. Someone's intentions are nearly always a guess. In this context, answers are like words: they can me incomplete, incorrect, irrelevant, late, and thus meaningless.

Obviously, one can also ask meaningless questions, like: how is the weather today? If you are looking for meaningful answers (like "yes, we are a match") then you must ask meaningful questions. Nevertheless, every answer you're getting could be meaningless. A (meaningful) question always reveals someone's intentions, an answer may not reveal anything.

Hence, I prefer letting people talk freely. Most people like talking about themself. It makes them feel (more) important. For the ones wondering: yes, the same principle applies to myself. I prefer asking a minimum of questions, and use them for validation, and/or steering the conversation into the desired direction.

Letting a person talk reveals much more than letting her/him answering questions. Asking closed questions only requires answering through a "yes" or "no", a "maybe" or "perhaps", or an evasive "I don't know" (idk). Therefore, these are considered the worst questions for obtaining meaningful information.

You might try asking several innocent questions first, before asking the Big One. Some people will be off-guard by then. They may answer without careful reflection on the implications. I suppose most of us answer questions by differentiating between (potential) opportunities versus threats.

Sometimes, there is no better way than to ambush somebody with a blunt closed question. The time required for answering, including the non-verbal body language, will reveal the truth which you are looking for.

The episode above ended several hours later in her question to me: shall I go home?

Such a Shame (1984) by Talk Talk


Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

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