When there is confusion, people often ask “why” individuals make the choices they do. As if an explanation of information would cause us to suddenly agree with another’s choices.
For example if someone is scared of spiders they scream and protest for help. And if we are not bothered by spiders, we may grab a tissue, go squish it, and ask, ” Why are you scared? It’s just a spider.” They can give a long list of reasons why they think spiders are scary and we still choose not to agree. The mistake here is that the answer to “why” encourages the speaker to defend and justify why they think and feel what they do.
No different then a child who asks, “Why is the sky blue?” and we answer “because of the ocean.” So the child asks, “Why is the ocean blue?” and we answer “Because of algae.” This continues, “Why is there algae?.. Because of plankton… Why is there plankton.. Just because!” Eventually the cycle of having to defend each answer, only to be asked “why”again leads to frustration because the answer is never good enough to satisfy the questioner.
These are not intended nor perceived as sincere requests for clarifying information – they are accusations, and they are intended to make the accused feel guilty. They have the additional effect of making us feel stupid, because there is no way we can answer these rhetorical questions that is good enough to satisfy the inquisitor.
The questioner is demanding a guarantee in advance against the failure that they predict for themselves. There is no guarantee that what we offer can give them the security that they require, so we don’t even try. We can say, “What is the worst thing that can happen? Are you willing to take a risk?” These are appropriate questions. They reveal that the issue is not the issue, the issue is the courage that it takes to change.
These questions do not need to be answered on the spot. They need to be answered in small moments. There are daily opportunities that life present us with, where we have an opportunity to behave differently. We can take ownership of our efforts in the real world to foster change. We cannot begin to resolve our interpersonal differences by making each other feel guilty and stupid.