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Stop Asking Why – A Functional Rustic Approach

Stop Asking Why.png

Stop asking why. Seriously. Drop the word from your vocabulary entirely. You don’t need it. The world doesn’t need it. Stop asking why.

“Why are you wearing that outfit?”

“Why are you doing it that way?”

“Why do I feel like this?”

Because. That’s the answer to every “why”. It is always the same answer. What is the reason to ask the question if you already know that the answer is “because….(insert justification here)”.

No one likes feeling judged
No one likes feeling judged. Back off and let people live. We’re all on some type of journey, all evolving and growing.

“Why are you wearing that outfit?”

I don’t know about you, but if someone  asked me “why are you wearing that outfit?” I am going to feel obligated to justify why my outfit is ok. The person asking the question isn’t stating my outfit is wrong, but their use of the word “why” forces me to use the word “because” and the word “because” is most often followed by some sort of justification.

“…because I wanted to.” “But why?” “…because I like it.” “But why?” “because fuck you and your judgmental questions. That’s why. I do not need to justify my clothing choices to you. Mind your own business!”

Unless your goal is make someone justify their outfit, don’t ask why. But what if you actually want to know the reason they wore that outfit? Ask them.

Everything we judge in others
Everything we judge in others is something within ourselves we don’t want to face.

“What is the reason you wore that outfit?” A “what” question does not imply judgment. “What” questions are answered with neutral, factual responses.

“The reason I wore this outfit is the law says that certain parts of the female body are inherently bad and therefore are a crime to expose in public. I am wearing the outfit because it is a crime for me not to. I am wearing this specific outfit because it was on the top of the pile, clean enough and appropriate for the weather and activities I have planned for the day.” At least that is what I would say if someone asked me that question right now. You now know the criteria I used to decide my outfit. Your “why” questions was answered without me feeling like I had to justify myself – I simply described my actions instead.

“Why are you doing it that way?”

Again, I’m feeling judged when asked that question. I am being asked to justify my actions. Let’s get a little more specific with this example, “why are you blogging on WordPress?” Again, there is nothing inherently wrong or mean or ill intentioned with the question. However, the use of the word “why” forces me to justify my blogging platform.

“What are the reasons you are blogging on WordPress?” Now this is a question I can answer without being forced to question my actions. This “what” question is asking for a list of items. “The reasons I blog on WordPress are 1. it was free to sign up 2. easy to use 3. lots of features 4. I get to meet interesting people.”

You have the answer to your question and I was able to provide that information without having to justify myself or question my actions.

“Why do I feel like this?”

“Why do I feel like this?” Asking ourselves why can be worse than someone else asking us why. Asking myself “why” I feel a certain way forces me to justify my feelings – to me. Feelings do not require justification. Feelings simply exist. They are not good nor bad. Feelings just are.

There are reasons I feel like this. The reasons are neither good or bad – they just are.

“What are the reasons you feel sad today?”

The reasons I feel sad today are that I heard the song Taps in a commercial and was reminded of my brothers suicide; I read a news article about a child being missing; I found out a friend had her heart broken.

When you judge youself for feeling bad
When you judge yourself for feeling bad you miss the opportunity to understand yourself.

Asking “why” I feel sad implies that I should not feel sad. It implies that there is a more appropriate way to feel. It implies that I should feel something different. It implies that my feelings are wrong.

“Why” questions cannot be answered, only justified. “What” questions provide answers that can be the foundation for change.

Identifying that a reason I am feeling sad is that I miss my brother enables me to know that I need to take time today to cry or simply reminisce. If I was focused on judging my sadness I would likely not set aside time to address the trigger.

Identifying that a reason I am feeling sad is that a child is missing reminds me that I have family I care about and do not want to be separated from. My sadness is not due to a deficiency on my part or some faulty way of thinking, but rather because I am filled with love for those I hold dear and don’t want to imagine being apart. Identifying the reason enables me to take the time I need to be grateful for what I have.

Identifying that a reason I feel sad is that my friend had her heartbroken reminds me to appreciate the supportive relationships I have and/or to assess the quality of my own relationships.

Words. So powerful. They can crush a heart
Words. So powerful. They can crush a heart, or heal it. They can shame a soul, or liberate it. They can shatter dreams, or energize them. The can obstruct connection, or invite it. They can create defenses, or melt them. We have to use words wisely.


This is not about pretending things don’t hurt or trying to see a positive in every situation. It is about viewing things in a way that leads to progress instead of stagnation. “Why” questions lead to a circle of judgement and justification – stagnation. “What” questions provide concrete foundations on which progress can be built and solutions can be found.

Lesson of the Day: Stop asking why.

Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

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6 thoughts on “Stop Asking Why – A Functional Rustic Approach

  1. Reblogged this on WELCOME TO MY BLOG.

  2. So insightful!!
    Your right — as a parent with a daughter with Borderline personality Disorder your words hit home!!
    WHAT is a better word choice- I will try to use it and VALIDATION as my default when communicating with my girl.

  3. It really is amazing how changing one word can have such an impact. Just a heads up, you will now notice every time someone else says the word “why”. Ha.

  4. I loved that post — taught us all something very beneficial to respectful and productive communication.

  5. You seem to be focusing on asking the personal type of ‘why’ question. I understand the implications of such questions as you presented. I agree that using the ‘Why’ question with a judgemental tone or intent is not helpful. However, what about other ‘why’ questions such as “Why is my car not starting?” or even “Why do people worship God?” Or what about a really big question like, “Why does anything exist at all?” Anyone who has ever had a child will know that once they begin talking, a flood of ‘why’ questions are on the way. Children ask these because they are discovery and learning questions and a child’s curiosity is boundless. As adults, I believe we should cultivate this ourselves and use ‘why’ questions to push us into always learning and growing productively in mind and spirit.

  6. You bring up very good points D.T. – especially regarding children. Inspiring creativity is paramount for children and asking “why” leads to “because” which leads them to grow more curious and ask more questions of the world they live in. When it comes to children, all questions are good questions and responses given should invite more questions from the child – in my opinion. That being said, that child will grow up and as an adult the child will use the vocabulary they were raised with.

    The definition of “Why” is “for what reason or purpose”. If a child is taught that the way to obtain reasons for something is by asking “why” they will use the word “why”. This is what they will be taught in school. Use “why” to obtain a reason. However, if within the child’s household the adults do not use the word “why” and instead ask, “what are the reasons” the child learns another way of asking the same question.

    The child will learn that there are different ways to approach a question. This communication skill is vital for when they are older. We currently teach children how to ask “why” but do not explain all the judgements that people carry with them when they say it. The child who is only taught “why” is likely to become very frustrated as an adult when their “why” questions seeking facts are met with emotions.

    I agree that there are many instances when asking “why” is a completely neutral question. But, wouldn’t it be easier to teach the child to ask “what is the reason” instead of explaining how using “why” is helpful in one situation but in more personal situations you should illicit information differently. I say we teach them a phrase that works in all situations.

    It is highly unlikely we will actually stop using “why” entirely but, by making an effort to find other ways to ask the question we are taking time to reflect on the words we say, the intentions we have and how our words impact those around us.

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