Judging. Defensive. Tyrannical. These are the shadow characteristics of Why as a means of getting information. Who knew Why had a shadow side? Generally people ask why when they are upset about something and they are looking for someone to blame. Sometimes they just want to be recognized as right, thereby making another wrong. Tyrannical.

Yes there are those times when we simply wonder why something is so, but it seems that the dark side of Why is more prevalent.

Exhibit A " Why did you do it this way?" The subtle message here is, "my way would have been better."

Exhibit B "Why did you say that?" The not so subtle message here is "I'm not looking for answers I simply don't like what you said."

But often we need to know, don't we? When and why? When a significant other comes home later than expected someone might be met at the door with "Why were you late?" To my ear that immediately puts said other on the defensive. Change a few words, "Did you hit traffic on the way home?" or "Did the boss grab you on your way out the door this evening?" and the whole dynamic is different. There is now an opening for conversation rather than a corner with a person stuck in it.

Much of how we interact is based on what we learned growing up. If the blame game--"who spilled the jelly beans and why?" was a common approach in your formative years then it's no wonder that "why did you leave your plate on the counter?" rolls off the tongue so easily. Do you really care why the person left the plate there?

Often the person on the other end of the interrogation, and it can just as easily be us, didn't really "do" anything to negatively affect you. Those with Y chromosomes for instance, are almost incapable of getting dishes from the counter top to the dishwasher, clothing into the hamper vs. left on top of it, or the condiment back into the refer vs. leaving it out on the counter. Why? Who cares, it's just the way it is.

Fact finding is fine and helpful to our need to understand the world around us. "Can you please put the dishes in the dishwasher?" sounds a lot more useful than "Why do you always leave your dishes in the sink?" The latter will probably get you the result you want too.

Sometimes things just are, what it is, crap happens. When a person we know, love or work with is involved however the mommy in us rises to the surface. We want answers!

Why? We know it's possible to get different behavior by asking a different question than the one that puts us on the defensive. Is it possible to give it a try?

What if we were to just accept that most people are not out to make our lives miserable. They are very busy doing what works for them and sometimes--quell horror--just don't think about us and our needs. Damn them.

Next time you are tempted to demand answers beginning with the word Why, pause, breathe, and see if you can't find other words to get you what you need to know. Most of the time what we need to know is that we are smart, right, not being taken advantage of, respected, etc. and has nothing to do with the other. If we can approach the people and situations that arise day to day with that in mind we might not only get the results we are looking for but we'd discover that what we need to know says more about who we are being than what's been done.

Author's Bio: 

Gregory Anne Cox is a certified life coach who has been dishing up all-you-can-eat servings of women's health and nutrition information for years. Her Lifestyle Tune-Up course is a 28 day wonder seminar for women looking for the missing mid-life manual. You can find out more at Live Better Coach, send her an email, or call her at (631) 728-2456. This article is copyrighted and you may feel free to use it as long as you include this paragraph when publishing it.