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June Converse

Thriving After Trauma - Author and Writing Coach

Why? OR What?

Why?

Do me a favor, ask yourself these questions. Pay attention to your tone and the look on your face (I know you can’t see your face, but you know what it’s doing!). As you ask these, pay attention to how your body feels and the answer your mind gives FIRST. Ready? --

  • Why did I wear this outfit today? Or
  • Why did I eat that? Or
  • Why did I do X? Or
  • Why am I wasting time on this blog?

Did you feel yourself preparing a defense? A slight stiffening of the shoulders? Standing the tiniest bit straighter? Did you get a little annoyed? Did you start to think … “Because …” and then proceed with your reasonable/rational defense?

When we begin a question with “Why”, the listener feels judged. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. It may or may not be intentional, but the listener immediately goes on the defense and in that defense, s/he will find all the rational reasons – the listener will PROVE to her/himself he made the right choice.

What?

Let’s try again. Again, pay attention to your tone and the look on your face (I know you can’t see your face but you know what it’s doing!). As you ask these, pay attention to how your body feels and the answer your mind gives FIRST. Ready? –

  • What lead you to choose this outfit today? Or
  • What lead you to eat that? Or
  • What lead you to do X? Or
  • What lead you to read this blog?

Hopefully the difference between WHY and WHAT was felt inside you. Hopefully your curiosity was peaked to understand yourself – understand the nuances involved with “what lead me?”. When you ask with “What lead you”, you are offering the listener a chance to pause, to think, to re-evaluate, to find the reasons beyond the defensive one.

Sometimes – oftentimes – when we ask “Why” we are already planning to tell the person they are wrong. But when we ask “What lead to” we are setting ourselves up to listen.

For Example

Why am I wearing a shirt with a blazing cuss word?

  • Answer: Because I like it and no one can tell me what to wear. People need to get over it. It’s just a word.

What led me to wear the shirt with a blazing cuss word?

  • Answer: Well, ummm, huh? It’s comfortable [now my body is letting me know that’s a ½ truth]. I’m tired and I don’t want to exercise. I have to get up and I have to go workout, but I can be a touch rebellious. I can express my frustration with life. I can have one minute of “take this, world.” That will energize me. Make me feel powerful.

If you were judging me, now you can hear more about what I’m feeling and needing. If you really hate the shirt and want me to change, you can find a way to meet my need to “feel powerful”.  Or you can honor my feelings and compliment the shirt (after all, only adults are at the gym anyway).

TRY IT on yourself.

TRY IT on others.

Click HERE to get the journaling activity that goes along with this blog post!

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June Converse with purple hair
Choosing to rebuild a life after a breakdown has been a challenge. I became an author and a blogger who openly shares...
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