There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.
So … pleaseeee never ever feel sorry for asking questions to better understand the world around you and better understand your life and the life of others.
The power of why questions
I have so much respect for people who aren’t afraid of asking WHY QUESTIONS because it shows they want to understand. If people ask why questions and also come from a place of pure compassionate listening, they are my role models and inspirations.
The harm of why questions
Unfortunately, I haven’t met many people who are not obsessed with their own being. Everyone seems so concerned about their project, about their story, about their success that it feels like most people are JUST listening to others to make their point finally. While listening, they are already thinking about how to convince the other person.
I still do this — even though I dislike this behavior trade. I want to compassionately listen and so understand other people. I want to give them pure attention and presence. But it’s hard and I accept it that I am not yet following through on this every moment, but I aim to do so.
Thich Nhat Hanh (@thichnhathanh) is one of my role models. He practices compassionate listening and generally mindfulness throughout the day — not just in one sitting in the morning or evening.
You listen with only one purpose, help him or her to empty his heart. — Thich Nhat Hanh
Go to minute 10 to hear him speak about ‘compassionate listening’ in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Another shitty way to ask why questions
Another shitty way to ask why questions is just to ‘debate’ with someone — without trying to understand or be understood. It’s just about ‘winning an argument’. It’s an EGO driven discussion where only one side can win.
For me, that’s not a good way to ask why questions either.
I admire people who ask why questions with the pure intention of understanding while listening compassionately without judging or giving advise. Just listening.
Try it … it’s soooo hard to listen without giving advise or judge someone.
I try it because I can’t others expect to do something I can’t do. Everyone is capable of learning to listening deeply — only if we make it a conscious effort. It might be similar to remembering a person’s name. If being introduced to someone, you should make it a conscious effort to remember his or her name and you will remember the name.
Don’t think you aren’t good at listening or remembering names or whatsoever. Don’t be led by a fixed mindset.
The power of how questions
Moreover, I admire people who ask HOW QUESTIONS because it shows their learning attitude. They practice a growth mindset. They stopped blaming others and purely focus on what is in their area of control: themselves.
Who isn’t afraid of admitting: “I don’t understand, can you please describe it in another way”?
That’s what I understand as understanding and deep listening. Asking why and how questions with the pure intention of learning and helping the other person “to empty his heart” as Thich Nhat Hanh would say.
So … please never ever feel sorry for asking questions to better understand the world around you and your life. BUT also practice to engage in compassionate listening without judging or advising others.
What’s your experience when talking to people? Are they truly listening? Not looking at their phone? Are they present? Are you present?
— Side note: As an Entrepreneur, deep listening and understanding based on why and how questions might come in very handy as you build a strong foundation with the people around you — your co-founders, your team members and your (potential) customers. This is even more important in the early stages of your project when you’re on the road to the holy startup grail — finding product market fit. Customer development is the art of interviewing and understanding people to build products they want. Compassionate listening is the art to understand people.