Here’s why one psychologist says we should stop asking ‘why’ (and start asking this instead)
The modern world revolves around asking “why?”—that’s how planets get discovered, scientific advancements are made and parents the world over are constantly annoyed. But one psychologist says that in order to make better decisions, we need to stop asking “why” and start asking “what” instead.
Tasha Eurich, the author of “Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and In Life,” is on a mission to get people to think differently about questioning themselves and their lives.
Eurich says that asking “why” can highlight our limitations but not help us gain any real insight, whereas “what” questions help us see potential, keep us curious and encourage forward motion.
“What I’ve found, in my research and others,’ is that when we ask ourselves those ‘why’ questions, it takes us down a spiral of self-loathing,” Eurich told Business Insider in an interview. “It makes us depressed; it tends to make us beat ourselves up in a non-productive way. But if we can ask the question of ‘what,’ that’s more future-oriented. That can make all the difference in the world.”
Eurich believes the “What Not Why” tool, as she calls it, can not only help us manage our emotions more effectively but also gain new insight into problems. For example, as Eurich writes in New York Magazine, asking yourself why you feel a certain way often leads to unhelpful answers such as “because I hate Mondays! or because I’m just a negative person!”
Asking yourself what you’re feeling in the moment gives you the opportunity to take a step back and critically analyze your situation. “Perhaps you’d realize that you’re overwhelmed at work, exhausted, and hungry,” she writes. “Rather than blindly reacting to these feelings, you take a step back, decide to fix yourself dinner, call a friend for some advice about how to manage your work stress, and commit to an early bedtime.”
So next time you’re facing problems at work, issues in your marriage or simply a foul mood, ask yourself what… and see what happens!