Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

R Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin
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 in order to control. They can be used to overpower our partners intellectually or shoot down any argument they may use to “justify” their actions. We can use questions to interrogate our partners to reach our definition of the truth. Sometimes questions can have hidden agendas and harmful 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 question
that a parent would ask a child.

It may sound ridiculous, but we need to be careful about how we use the word “why.” A “why” question can trigger our anger because it feels like a question that a parent would ask 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. 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 that we do not want to appear harsh or uncaring. Unfortunately, this approach doesn't always work with people who use “why” questions as tools for winning arguments. No explanation will win their approval. 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 www.amazon.com.

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700