Ahoy there folks. I haven’t posted anything in quite some time now (sorry ’bout that) but I’ll try to compensate for my absence by now writing a longer-than-usual post. I have three other drafts slumbering in my draft box at the moment, but for today’s post I decided to talk about – or question – our way of asking questions. Communication about the way we communicate is (because of an infinite list of reasons that I could dedicate dozens of blog posts to) vital and outmost necessary since it can be applied to nearly all aspects of social interactions.
Maybe I’ve been reading too much into this but something I’ve noticed is that the flow of the conversations I have with Iranians in one particular aspect vastly differs from the conversations I engage in with Swedes, other Europeans, South Americans and people from Eastern Asian countries. And I’m now referring to the questions that are hurled my way. Sometimes they are terrifyingly personal and nearly always they are completely irrelevant.
The response I get when I ask these inquisitors why they are asking me whatever-it-is-that-they-are-asking, usually is “na hamintoori”. Sometimes they go so far so as to say that they don’t care (then why ask?) and that I don’t have to answer if I don’t want to (which I obviously already know). But the question is not really what the person (in this case me) wants, it is why you are asking. Being asked questions without even being able to guess why gives rise to a sense of discomfort and ambiguity.
These questions that I keep referring to seem to be triggered by certain cues of information in the story that’s being told. And they do very often seem to relate to education, occupation, money, relationships, religion or faith. I don’t think it’s something that many are aware of doing though, so it’s most likely habitual and/or subconscious. It might also stem from insecurity, from not having anything to say or add to the conversation and therefore making the conversation about the person one is talking to.
But still, the nature of the questions is sometimes so obscure that it makes me wonder how the questions even entered their minds in the first place. It gives the sense that there are two distinct conversations within the same conversation, that what’s being said really isn’t being listened to. And I keep asking myself “why are they asking me this? Why and how does this matter?”
The constant search and need for information about people that lots of people in our culture seem to have is both peculiar and unsettling. Instead of simply allowing conversations to naturally unfold, why do we slow them down by trying to get information about the person we are talking to or about things vaguely related to their stories?
We can usually motivate our answers but shouldn’t we be able to give some kind of motivation to our questions as well? And shouldn’t the questions we ask somehow contribute to the conversation or the relationship to the person we are talking to? Isn’t that the purpose of most human interactions? And isn’t the most integral part of conversations listening? If we intently listen to both the person talking to us and to our inner voice, won’t we automatically know what to ask or what we should avoid asking as we are trying to get to know them? And why am I asking all this? Hamintoori? No, because it is vital to communicate about communication and to question our way of asking questions. For self-improvement. For getting to know others in a more trusting, open way. And for being aware of how our culture and behaviour is different from other cultures and what complications our way of conversing might pose if we are not aware of these differences.
It is understandable if it for many is natural not to be bothered by the questions we pose and respond to since “everyone” is doing it, but the fact that “everyone” is doing something without bothering to reflect on it is not a reasonable excuse for us to do the same.