That’s interesting! I wonder why?
Over the last few posts, I have been looking at assumptions. Questioning assumptions is a way of more fully engaging with the ideas presented, of getting involved in the dialogue.
However asking ‘Why?’ should not be an excuse to let loose our inner 4-year old. We owe it to our own understanding and that of others to say ‘why we are asking why’.
Is it because we genuinely do not understand and want to know more (a neutral stance)? Then, let’s be honest and say so. Admitting we need to know more is a sign of intelligent recognition of our own (current) limits.
Often it is because we believe the assumption to be at fault and we are seeking to trip up the speaker with our question. This is not such a neutral stance. It is also probably responsible for our reaction when our own assumptions are challenged, to vigorously defend them and to suppose the questioner must be at fault – and probably just a bit stupid! So now we have an antagonistic situation where neither party learns anything.
There is a way out of this negative situation. Whether it is your assumptions that are being questioned, or the assumptions of others are arousing doubt in you, the most productive reaction is to say “That’s interesting! I wonder why?” Why is my assumption being questioned? Why am I having a gut reaction to the assumption of another? In both cases, by all means think through possible answers, but be wary of too quickly coming to a conclusion. Ask! But in a spirit of genuine, interested, curiosity. If you preface your question with “That’s interesting!” (and mean it!) you will be surprised by the genuine conversation that can follow.