Sunday, January 11, 2009

minus 20 questions...

I'm rather bad at asking questions...or it should definitely seem so if we've ever had a conversation face-to-face. This is certainly something of which I'm hardly proud. I worry that it's indicative that I have poor listening skills.

However, I recently came to the conclusion that this may not be entirely true after I spent some time speculating on just why I don't ask a lot of questions. I happened upon 2 reasons I'd not previously realized, the first of which is rather complicated and the second of which is really quite simple.

Reason 1 goes a little something like this: I've spent a great deal of my life learning things by observation rather than asking questions - like gathering the meaning of a word I don't know from the context of a conversation. Much can be learned about any situation or person by simply watching/observing. I think I may have originally started doing this out of pride so I wouldn't look silly for asking simple questions, but it turns out it's a very useful skill.

(relevant sidebar) We are all judgmental to some's in our DNA. We discern things, and then we make judgments based upon our discernment. I don't really like the idea of "judging" people per se, but if we're ever to make any sort of progress in our lives, we have to make judgments. For example - Is this guy trustworthy? Is she lying to me? What do they really mean by that? I'm sure I do a poor job of it, but I try to judge as little as I must, and also try to keep my judgments to a horizontal scale rather than a vertical one. I think I naturally put myself at the top of the vertical one, and that's definitely not where I belong - whereas on a horizontal scale, the playing field is level. Judgement becomes a matter of "different" rather than "better vs. worse."(end sidebar)

When I encounter people, I immediately begin compiling data with regards to that person's character as there are no better criteria by which to make judgment. Over the years I've developed a pretty good "character barometer" and can usually tell within a matter of minutes of observing someone whether they'll become an acquaintance, a friend, or even a nemesis. (I don't really have any's just fun to say). We transmit a great many signals by our actions, body language, demeanor, verbage, etc.

Now before you get all uncomfortable when you meet me, just know that this kind of thinking comes with a price. I can't help but assume that others hold me under the exact same scrutiny, so I'm probably a great deal more uncomfortable than you, whether I show it or not.

So, long story short, I substitute observing for question-asking. My biggest regret about this is that people might get the impression that I'm not actually invested/interested in them, but the truth is that I've already unintentionally invested in them by observing them. It plays into another trait of mine I call "reciprocation," which is another blog for another time.

Reason 2 weighs far less guiltily on my heart and goes like this: I spend much of my time alone. I live alone and work alone. Seeing as I've, most often, already silently learned much about my company by observation, I often know what I want to know about them and don't have further questions. So rather than them questions, I blabber excitedly. Why? Because I'm literally just so excited to be in their presence that I get wound up. I know that sounds dumb, but it's really true. Sometimes, if I'm with a particularly close friend, I just won't say anything because their presence calms me and I'm so comfortable I needn't say a thing.

So if you've ever been offended by my constant jabbering and pontificating, or my enigmatic silence, will you please forgive me? Apparently I actually am quite concerned with you and have a poor way of showing it. I'm not one for composure, and I'm afraid you probably won't catch me asking questions of someone just to make them feel invested in. That seems patronizing if you ask me.

So, my new quest is this. Come up with questions whose answers I actually desire to know. Start asking them of people and get better at SHOWING the fact that I'm interested in them.


  1. Yo, G!! I enjoyed this a lot. Let's brainstorm some sweetness tomorrow night, mmm k?

  2. catching up on your blog graham! my problem is i ask too many questions lol.