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Is it okay to ask questions?

Hugh Mackay, pretty decent fella and pretty decent researcher, writing in ‘THE ESSAY’ (Sydney Morning Herald 25th-26th July 2009), says all social research is based on indirect experience; ‘…other people’s accounts of what they are thinking and feeling.’

He also says:

‘That’s the trouble with asking questions: they always elicit an answer and you never know whether the answers only exist because the questions were posed.’

I can only agree. It is a long time since I have asked my mechanic who just fixed the lights on our old Corolla…‘Is there anything else that needs doing?’ Sometimes a question is really not the right thing.

As someone who works with what can be loosely described as ‘therapy’, questions have always been my ally. I do know that every question means there are thousands I didn’t ask. That when I ask about ‘this’ I do not ask about ‘that.’ Any choice of a question has to automatically shut down other choices. Possibliities are lost. All too true. And yet, I continue to like questions. And I could of course ask myself just why it is that I like questions so much. Is it because they can take us into unexpected and important places? Is it because telling people things rather than asking them things is so often unproductive? But of course, these are not real answer-seeking questions. They hold my view within them. Yet a question to myself like…what am I really most afraid of in life? Or…what would I die for? Or…who do I most admire in life? Who am I most influenced by? Who do I look up to? Who would I seek out in a time of need? These questions, thrown up here quickly, I do not immediately know the answers to.

I like questions. They can open up parts of us and our lives unexpectedly and fruitfully. And if at times they are also embarrassing, disturbing or even painful, if what they reveal to us is useful, then I have to say that I think they are worth it. (I suspect that really, Hugh likes questions too).

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