Why ‘Why?’ is the most powerful question

In my previous post, I wrote about how there is really no need to use the phrase ‘It may be a stupid question but…’ and why I believe much of the use of it is due to a fear of looking foolish (even though we don’t the vast majority of the time).

Writing that post got me thinking about an alternative to that phrase, which is to simply ask the question, or to begin a sentence with the word, ‘Why?’. To my mind, it is the most powerful question any of us can ask. It’s returning to that childlike wonder, inquisitiveness, and lack of fear. Think about it. If a child doesn’t understand something, they will ask why. With no fear, no concerns about being judged, no thinking that it is a crazy question to ask – they will ask that most simple of questions. As any parent will attest, children will ask it quite incessantly at times, but that is no bad thing. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is how they understand things better. They’ll ask the question, confirm with themselves that they now know what they need to, and move on to the next amazing thing which life throws their way.

Why do most of us lose the ability to ask that question as adults? Again, as detailed in my previous post, I believe it’s primarily due to fear, namely the fear of looking foolish. But just think about this for a moment – think about the possibilities and opportunities here. To what extent could our lives be improved if we rediscovered that child-like desire to question almost everything and say ‘Why?’ much more often. For me, it’s a constant and never-ending journey to understand things better and to learn more. There should be no fear attached to that – only a desire to make our lives easier. If we’re slightly troubled by not understanding something, but don’t ask the question that begins with ‘Why?’, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. We’ll feel better for knowing. We’ll have a greater understanding of the world around us. We won’t be fearful of the situation reoccurring with us still not fully understanding it. Life will be a whole lot easier.

I appreciate this can be more difficult in the workplace than in our private lives but it really shouldn’t be. There are some senior people within the organisation I work for who actually wear this as a badge of honour – they are known for constantly questioning things and openly admitting when they don’t understand this and that, for me, is fantastic, brave, and inspiring. As I wrote in my previous post, the old adage of someone else in the room quietly appreciating you asking a question they were considering but didn’t feel confident enough to ask is, in my experience, almost always the case. I can’t recall ever being in a meeting or work situation where I’ve seen people ask questions to increase their basic understanding of a situation and be shot down for it.

And, let’s be honest, any question which allows us to have meaningful and productive conversations with other people, rather than being stuck on a phone screen, can only be a good thing, can’t it? On occasion, if there’s no-one to ask the direct question to, hitting Google is a viable option though. 1-2-1 conversations are certainly better but if you’re increasing your understanding of something, use whichever resources you have at your disposal.

So, why not give it a try at some point this week and embrace that inner-child that still lives in all of us (thank God…). I’m willing to bet there will undoubtedly be 2 or 3 occasions (at least) where you could start a sentence with ‘Why…?’ but may not under normal circumstances. Quash that fear; know that you won’t look foolish; ask those questions this week and see where it takes you. Chances are, you’ll be glad you did…

As always, thanks for reading, stay safe, and please do try to be kind to others and to yourself.

Best wishes and take care.


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