ASK A QUESTION,
GET AN ANSWER
Editor's Note: It's time for yet another installment
from that noted advice columnist, the Doctor of Communications himself, aka
Dr. C. While Dr. C usually expertly answers questions from readers regarding
cell phones, texting, email and other miserable complications of our modern
world, Dr. C is straying a bit this week and concentrating on a more
pedestrian method of communication.
Dear Dr. C: I consider myself a fairly social guy. I'm
in my early 60's and I enjoy people, most of the time. I share meals with
them, play sports with them, have business meetings with them, and sometimes
go to parties with them. As you know, this usually requires conversation. I
think I'm pretty decent making conversation, and you know why? BECAUSE I ASK
QUESTIONS! Why are there so many people out there who never ask a question?
I'll finish a meal with someone and I'll know everything about their life,
their work, their kids and their favorite foods. And the only thing they'll
know about me is that I'm a male, because they never ask me a question about
myself in return. It seems to be happening more and more. Is it a sign of
the times to be so non-inquisitive? Or are people just self-centered? Signed:
Nick H. from San Francisco.
Dear Nick H: First of all, let me compliment you on a
well-written, thought provoking letter. Seldom do I receive such
Dear Dr. C: Thank you. Signed: Nick H. from San
Dear Nick H: You're welcome. As for your question, it's
very coincidental that Dr. C has been thinking about the same issue lately.
Dr. C continuously runs into people and carries the conversation because Dr.
C has no choice. Dr. C recently had dinner with a nice fellow who never
asked a single question in 2 ½ hours. Dr. C really didn't have any interest
in his life, but if Dr. C didn't continually ask questions, there would have
been dead silence. It's not that Dr. C thinks he is any more interesting
than anyone else, it's just that Dr. C needs help keeping a conversation
going. Whether you care or not, it's common courtesy to feign interest.
As for answering your question as to why so many people never
ask questions, Dr. C can unequivocally state not all are narcissistic
self-absorbed jerks who are only interested in talking about themselves.
Those people are hopeless and have already discontinued reading this column.
But Dr. C has many friends and acquaintances who are far from egocentric and
have no desire to talk about themselves. They will, though, when you ask
them a question. THEY JUST NEVER ASK ONE IN RETURN!
These are the people we can help. After extensive research, Dr.
C has come up with four reasons why some very lovely people never ask
1. They feel like they're bothering you.
2. They don't want to get too personal and think it's none of their
business. They don't want to pry.
3. They are innately non-curious.
4. They are shy and/or lazy.
Dr. C thinks those are the stupidest reasons ever concocted.
Lest we forget, we're talking about asking a question AFTER someone has
asked you a similar question. For instance, if Dr. C asks if you have any
children, and then asks their age and gender, and then asks about their
schools or vocations, and then asks, in desperation, the color of their hair…..it
should indicate the door is open to ask Dr. C if he has kids.
Amazingly, many people never do. So Dr. C goes on to the next
subject which Dr. C suddenly has zero interest in because he knows there
will be no reciprocity, like what are your vacation plans next year? But Dr.
C still asks, reluctantly, because that's what conversation is all about.
As noted, Nick H., in your illustrious letter that you penned
so magnificently, it is frustrating to be the one who always asks questions
and gets no inquiries in return. Perhaps, by bringing this problem out into
the open, some of these people (the ones that are not narcissistic) will
realize that asking questions is a two-way street, and that conversations
between two human beings relies on reciprocity.
Dr. C hopes this has been helpful . Thank you again, Nick H.,
for your letter. Should we ever meet, we can fight over who gets to ask the