Search for a Topic

Sign Up for FREE Tips

Your email:
cta webinar

Got a ?

The Retail Experts

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Why Ask Why?


Is it good to ask the why questions?
Or is it bad to ask the why questions?

questionsI recently had a good friend ask me a question about why a certain baseball pitcher makes an unusual facial expression upon releasing the ball. He said that his lips appeared rounded. He said, “Why does he do that?” I have no idea why he does it and frankly I really don’t care. If I told him that, he would get annoyed because it would be construed as a put down. So I said the polite thing: “I really don’t know but what an interesting observation”.

Are you wasting time asking employees or people around you why questions that could become counterproductive? For instance when we ask an employee “why did you show that customer that item?” The way that question is structured is counter-productive. The employee showed/suggested an item because they believed it was a good suggestion. They might be dead wrong but they still believed they were doing the right thing. So what happens is that you are putting down that employee and the employee feels like their self worth has been damaged.

Why questions can create the best constructive criticism but can also foster some of the most sarcastic responses. The other day I tipped over a glass of soda and my wife asked me why did I do that? I felt like saying “because I like to spill soda on the floor and it gives me an opportunity to wash the floor”. Needless to say that would be counterproductive. However, if the question were asked what might have caused the glass to spill the soda and how it could be corrected in the future, that would definitely be more productive.

The other night the Boston Red Sox, my home team, lost a critical game and was eliminated from any post-season play. At the end of the game the announcer said that there will be a lot of why questions asked about this team. There is no question he is right about that but I can assure you they won’t be stupid why questions. They will be questions such as why did we lose? Why did great players not perform? Why didn’t star players hit the ball the way they are supposed to? All of those why questions are productive.

The point is that we need to avoid the why questions that can trigger negative or sarcastic responses. Maybe what we need to do is to change the why questions to what questions. An example would be when the store owner asks “why didn’t that customer buy?” This could have triggered response muttered under an employee’s breath “because she hates you and hates the store.” A more productive question could have been “what would it have taken to have made that sale?” Is it a true learning experience or is it a negative exchange of ideas?

So if you are asking why I wrote this article, I could respond “because I felt like it” or I could say something like I believe the words we choose to use can affect the outcomes we receive. The why question can generate responses that we can easily live without and undermine the basic fabric of our business. That’s why I have chosen to write this article.

Let’s eliminate the negative why’s and ask questions that will move a business forward while generating positive and productive responses.  


I don't know how bad I am about this, but since I recognize it in others, it's probable that I can do better. It's part of the respect portion of life itself. It certainly doesn't hurt to be reminded to be respectful and helpful ALL THE TIME, even in the circumstances that might elicit a less measured response. It's not a light subject - - - it's a fundamental that the best among us are better at than at least I am. So, Thanks!
Posted @ Tuesday, October 04, 2011 8:18 AM by Peter Rose
Years ago when I was studying counseling psychology I learned that asking "why" questions puts people on the defensive. To the point where it blocks a person's thinking and reflecting on a deeper level. 
Negative and sarcastic responses may be part of feeling defensive.
Posted @ Tuesday, October 04, 2011 8:37 AM by Linda Varone
Very interesting article. I think you are right in what you say and I will bear that in mind with my staff, and when the soda gets knocked over at home.
Posted @ Tuesday, October 04, 2011 7:49 PM by Richard
This is something I do without realising the impact it can have - you really can see people immediately go on the defensive when you ask why - there are far more constructive ways to do it.
Posted @ Thursday, October 06, 2011 5:38 AM by Michael @ Filplastic
That is exactly what I am lookng for!You have done a brilliant job. Your article is truly relevant to my study at this moment, and I am really happy to read it.Thanks for great share! You can like our web: Canada Goose Expedition and Canada Goose Expedition Parka
Posted @ Friday, October 07, 2011 10:32 PM by Canada Goose Expedition
Thank you for sharing your great article and I like it very much,welcome to Canada Goose Parka,and I hope you will like it too.
Posted @ Saturday, October 08, 2011 2:21 AM by Canada Goose Parka
i want to know why why is why
Posted @ Sunday, October 09, 2011 9:37 AM by justice owowo
This is true for the babies as well, and off course you don't want to pick unattractive newborn baby clothing for your precious.Unlike before, there is lots of infant clothing such as bodysuit, overall, outerwear, pants and shorts, dresses moncler jackets skirts, tops and tees, sleepwear and blankets, and so forth. It is best if knowing the spyder mens jackets outfits for certain occasion and easily to access.
Posted @ Monday, October 10, 2011 8:54 PM by the north face jackets
The man recovered his usa cheap soccer cleats animation as he ate. My brother made him drink that good Mauves wine, which he does not drink himself, because he says that wine is expensive. My brother imparted all these details with that easy usa adidas absolado x gayety of his with which you are acquainted, interspersing his words with graceful attentions to me. He recurred frequently usa adidas indoor cleats to that comfortable trade of grurin, as though he wished the man to understand, without advising him directly and harshly, that this would afford him a refuge. One thing struck me. This man was what I have usa soccer cleats reviews told you. Well, neither during supper, nor during the entire evening, did my brother utter a single word, with the exception usa mens soccer shoes of a few words about Jesus when he entered, which could remind the man of what he was, nor of what usa adidas store my brother was. To all appearances, it was an occasion for preaching him a little sermon, and of impressing the Bishop on the convict, so that a mark of the passage might remain behind. This might have appeared adidas usa cleats soccer to any one else who had this, unfortunate man in his hands to afford a chance to nourish his soul as well as his body, and to bestow upon him some reproach, seasoned with moralizing and advice, or a little adidas usa mundial turf commiseration, with an exhortation to conduct himself better in the future. My brother did not even ask him from what country he came, nor what was his history. For in his history usa soccer shoes there is a fault, and my brother seemed to avoid everything which could remind him of it. To such a point did he carry it, that at one time, when my brother was speaking of the usa adidas predator absolion mountaineers of Pontarlier, who exercise a gentle labor near heaven, and who, he added, are happy because they are innocent, he stopped short, fearing lest in this remark there might have escaped usa newest soccer cleats him something which might wound the man. By dint of reflection, I think I have comprehended what was passing in usa youth soccer shoes my brother's heart. He was thinking, no doubt, that this man, whose name is Jean Valjean, had his misfortune only too vividly present in his mind; that the best thing was to divert him from it, and to make usa best soccer cleats him believe, if only momentarily, that he was a person like any other, by treating him just in his ordinary way. 
<p align="center"><img src="" alt="Adidas F50 Adizero TRX FG Leather In White Blue" border="0" longdesc=""> 
<p align="center">usa mens soccer shoes 
usa newest soccer cleats 
indoor soccer cleats  
Posted @ Monday, October 10, 2011 10:32 PM by usa adidas predator absolion
Tone and intent are everything when it comes to asking why. For instance, the manager asking a clerk why they showed a customer an item, may use the answer to improve training or expand their own viewpoint, etc. While we are often defensive when asked a "why" question, it's probably worth asking in such case "What am I defending and why?"
Posted @ Tuesday, October 11, 2011 6:55 PM by David Chilstrom
David - Yes tone and intent are important. But simply using the word "why" is an emotional trigger to defensiveness. When you are struggling with defensive emotions, you are not really able to think clearly. Maybe later you can understand the why of your defensiveness. 
The point is that you are more likely to get an answer to your questions when it is re-phrased without using that trigger word:'why".
Posted @ Wednesday, October 12, 2011 11:29 AM by Linda Varone
Comments have been closed for this article.