Try this.

Next time a friend or a colleague asks you a question, feel free to answer, and then ask that person the same question back. I don’t know why this happens – this comes from no academic study that I know of – but I have found this to be consistently true.

People ask those things that they themselves want to be asked.

Maybe it’s because … people are practicing those questions in their head (speaking to themselves), and one day they ask that question aloud of someone.

Maybe it’s because … people can think of a personal answer while they are asking a question.

Maybe it’s because … these are typical questions that go on in the person’s head day in and day out, and the listener isn’t always with that person, and so doesn’t hear that question asked again and again. Perhaps Joselle asks everyone she meets, “Which is better – making more money but hating your job, or making less money but liking it a little more?” Maybe that’s just Joselle’s standard question.

* “How are you?” – That person often wants to be asked how they are.
* “How are you getting on with your business partner?” – That person often wants to be asked about his/her business partner or work colleagues.
* “How many hours of TV do you let your child watch per day?” – This person is often thinking of how many hours are appropriate for his/her child.

Enjoy asking people those questions they want to be asked anyway!

One Comment

  1. Posted Wednesday August 8, 2007 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    I have found this to be true as well! I think the expectation is that a question or topic will be reciprocated in conversation. So I don’t think it’s just about questions. But, if we are talking about my kids, then I think your expectation is that we will, if not right then, then at some point later in the conversation, talk about your kids. There is a certain sense of parity in it I suppose.

    I am not sure that if I ask a question I expect that specific question to be reciprocated. But, once I hear your answer I might want to jump in with thoughts of my own. The reciprocated question offers an opportunity to do that gracefully.