Day 23,749: Wait, What? and Other Stalling Tactics. 

I’ve heard two people now discuss how to answer awkward questions that come their way. The first was Connie Shultz. After she married her husband, Ohio politician Sherrod Brown in 2004, and despite having a long career of her own, people kept asking her if she were going to change her name.  At first she was a bit put off by the question and didn’t know quite how to answer. Then, after some deliberation, she came up her perfect answer, “Why I’ve always been called Connie.”   Boom.

Related Post: Cleveland Crone To Know 

The second scenario came from an interview with Jay Williams. Williams was the next great basketball wonder until he got into a bad motorcycle accident that ended his far too short career.  Even today, with a new career as a basketball analyst, people still come up to him and ask how it feels to have thrown his career away. He’s at a point in his life now where he can handle the question and can answer that he’s happier today than he was then. It was the catalyst that brought him to the right place today.

We all get asked inappropriate questions. It’s odd that people feel they have the right to ask anything. We understand it from toddlers and people with various mental challenges, but how does someone other than that get past the age of 21 with the right to ask unfiltered intrusive questions? What makes people feel they have the right to know anything about someone else that’s not their business?

Learning Deliberation

When younger, I was known for being fast on feet and coming back with good come backs. It came naturally.  Maybe it’s because I hadn’t learned myself that the question or comment was likely inappropriate.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowed down a bit and inappropriate comments throw me for a loop.  I think I’m surprised that we haven’t gotten past that point of maturity as a group.  It’s not that I expect everyone to be politically correct, but I do expect adults of a certain age to have a level of sensitivity or empathy.  It’s naive, I know.

So, I’m also having to learn to slow down and not respond at all. Silence and deliberation are my better companions as I try to first determine if I’ve heard the question, or the question behind the question correctly.  I’m also trying to ask better questions myself.

Questioner School

One book worth reading is Wait, What And Life’s Other Essential Questions by James Ryan. The first question to master is simply: Wait, What?  It’s because it asks for space and more information. Other key questions don’t start with “How could you,”or “Why did you,” but instead come from the questioner with phrase such as How can I Help? or “I wonder…” or even “Couldn’t we at least…?”

Ryan is a trained lawyer and Dean of the Faculty of Education at Harvard, As a J.D. he easily could have been just an interrogator rather than a curiosity seeker. He is dedicated to learning how to get a good answer by first asking a good question – something that serves rather than incites.  I think the difference might just be making sure the question stems from the I and isn’t about the you — the person being questioned.

So, I’m committing, and not yet succeeding, at slowing down both my reactions to questions (perhaps just with a clarifying question of my own) and slowing down my answers to make sure I’m hearing the correct question – the one intended rather than the one asked. If you ask me how I’m doing, I’ll have to just get back to you.


Daily Focus on Gun Sanity:  Here’s an article written after the Vegas shooting about the history of the NRA and how the current NRA of today is not the NRA of yesteryear. The NRA was not always against gun control and went to the dark side in the 1960s. This insightful article shows how the Second Amendment is not the entire argument, although it’s the one most volcalized. The basis of current NRA positions stem back more to past fear mongering regarding race and immigration. Sad, surprising, and worth knowing.  I’m rereading this article several times because I remember different points each time I got through it.