Question After Question
Questions. Our lives seem to revolve around them and be driven by them, don’t they? Job interviews, health checkups, shopping visits, even some of the ordinary conversations we have; there are questions. “Where can I find…?” “How do I do this?” “Would you like fries with that?” OK, that last question might not be such a frequent occurrence but it still crops up every now and again!
Regardless, we come across many questions in our lives. Some of them are easy. Others…not so much. That being said, it’s a normal part of life, to question. One of the things my partner’s toddler often does is practically interrogates us. I’m sure parents are familiar with the word “why?” Combine it with “but why?” or “OK…why?” and you’re got a recipe for a headache!! Children are inquisitive by nature though, aren’t they? It’s how they learn, how they grow.
As we get older, though, those questions become less inquisitive and more practical. We ask how to do things, what kinds of specifications there are and other such things. Sometimes it can lead to secrets or to the latest gossip, but we can be just as curious as those children.
An Uncomfortable Question
Not all questions are good questions though, as I’m sure you’d expect. If I was to ask you all what your least favourite, or most uncomfortable question, I’m sure you would all the say the same thing…
“How are you?”
What do we even say in response? For the majority of us, we’ll put on a smile and say “I’m fine”. Even if we’re not fine, we’ll say that we are anyway because if we don’t, we unleashed a tidal wave barrage of more questions. No one wants that, aside from masochists! Why would we want to be asked more questions on top of the uncomfortable “how are you”???
But that’s just an uncomfortable question. I believe there is one that’s even worse…
Want to know what it is?
The Dreaded Question
So here it is, the dreaded question. Personally, I believe it to be a horrible one, though admittedly it’s one that I use loads, especially when talking to others who are struggling. Have you guessed it? The question is:
“What can I do to help?”
That’s right: I asked “What can I do to help?” On the surface, it might not seem like that bad a question but really it’s probably one of the most frustrating and exasperating questions ever asked! Or is that just me and I’m overexaggerating it…? I’m never sure!
See, people ask us this question when we’re struggling and it seems like a perfectly innocent question. Yet…what do we say? Just like “how are you”, we have no idea what to say. Most of the time, we don’t have an answer we can give to ourselves, never mind anyone else! How do we answer that question when we don’t even know what would help us?
Now, it’s not that people are being mean when they ask this question, as really they’re asking because they care. Yet sometimes it’s one of the most awkward things that we can be faced with.
So how do we deal with it? What can we do?
As difficult as it is, an alternative is possible. One of my favourite suggestions is, instead of asking what people can do, simply come alongside them and try this:
“I know you’re not particularly good at the moment, so I just wanted to remind you that I’m here for you.”
It’s simple, it’s reasonably succinct and it gets the right message across. There’s no pressure, then, to figure out what’s wrong, no obligation to give a truthful answer if we don’t really want to answer the question in the first place.
Believe me, it takes a major retraining of the brain because it’s almost human nature to ask what we can do to help, but it will be worth it.
So why not try it?
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