Friday, March 5th, 2021

R Shopper Columns


HOT BUTTON: Questions! Questions!


Questions can be more than just simple inquiries for additional information or clarification. They can be used as weapons to win an argument by disarming our partner and making her feel stupid. Questions as weapons can be used as a way of probing deeply for the purpose of control.

They can be used to over-power our partner intellectually or to put our partner on the defensive so we can shoot down any argument he may use to 'justify' his actions. We can use questions to interrogate our partner in order to reach our definition of the truth. Sometimes questions can have hidden agendas and negative intentions. A question can be more of a statement than an inquiry. Some questions make a statement about what the other person has done or said. 'Why do you always make bad choices?' 'Why are you such a slob?' When we use questions as weapons to win an argument, there is going to be anger.

A 'why' question can trigger our anger because it feels like a parent question. A parent question is a question that would be asked of a child.

It may sound ridiculous but we need to be careful how we use the word 'why.' A 'why' question can trigger our anger because it feels like a parent question. A parent question is a question that would be asked of a child. When asked of us as adults, it feels like one up and one down. We can feel like a powerless child trying to justify our actions to an authority figure's satisfaction. Of course, we are going to be defensive because it challenges our integrity.

The whole idea of defending ourselves puts us in a position of powerlessness because we are allowing the other person to be the judge of what we have done. By seeking the other person's stamp of approval, we lose some of our power. The problem is that the more we 'explain' or defend ourselves, the more loopholes the other person can find.

Consequently, our position is weakened. The reason we explain is because we do not want to appear harsh or uncaring but unfortunately, this approach doesn't always work with some people.

If the why question is used as a tool for winning the argument, the problem is that even after explaining, the other person is not going to say, 'Oh, now I understand. I see your point.' He is not going to give us his approval because it is a control and power play. In these situations, it pays to make certain topics non-discussable.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700