27 May 2008

Secret Key to Happiness #12

I was at a street fair the other day when I saw a woman angrily saying to a guy who was probably her father: "Why? Why did you have to do it like that?"

I don't know what he had done or what problem he had caused. I was only walking by for the aftermath and I was tempted to stop and give her one of my main secrets to happiness: Don't ask "Why?"

Oh, I know it is tempting. When something goes wrong, we want to do something. And if there is nothing to be done, we still want to do something, and the handiest something that comes up is to try and make the other person feel guilty.

I have been there 1000 times myself, and I have asked why more times than I can count. What have I got for my trouble? Fights. Hurt feelings. Resentment. Ruined hours and days.

To ask why is to assume the other person is guilty. To tell them, in not so many words, that you think they are thoughtless at best and a malicious idiot at worst.

I remember one time when a certain Person I Used to Live With and I were out in the garage. We were having some kind of issue and I accidentally set off the garage door opener, frightening him.

He yelled at me "WHY did you do that?" and I yelled the only thing I could think of back "Because I am obviously a f***ing moron, that's why, that's what you think, isn't it?" Good times!

My Suebobian advice? The next time the Bad Thing happens, don't ask why. Just do what you need to make it better. If you can just exercise that moment of self-restraint, your life will be so much happier for it. I promise.

17 comments:

Jeremy Nicoll said...

I agree completely. I tend to really piss people off when they ask "why?" because I am a fairly literal person and I'll begin to explain why - which then usually gets the response of, "Stop making excuses!" In short, I've observed the same thing that you have.

Average Jane said...

That's excellent advice. In retrospect, I realize that I've started a lot of unnecessary fights with "why."

meno said...

I will try really, really hard to remember this at the right time.

super des said...

I know I've said this before, but you are so wise.

Mrs. G. said...

I am so following this advice.

Traceytreasure said...

Can we make Why? against the law? I get way too many a day from my kids. I will remember your wise words. Thank you!

QT said...

I'm sorry, but the way you described that woman...I just couldn't help but laugh, because I have SO been there, too.

Neil said...

I live with a "why" person. There are some steps I had to take in order to make my life better. The why person is looking to blame someone for something out of her control, and is usually insecure, so blames... me. If I get all upset, I am acknowledging the other person "had a point.". And they usually get what they want -- a fight. This way, they can get the anxiety out of their system.

It took me a very long time to stop myself after she asked "Why?" I now remind myself that this WHY is about her, and not about me. And by not giving in to the fight, I win.

minnie said...

i wish i had read this reminder earlier today. that way i wouldnt have asked WHY at our anniversary dinner.
i just couldnt think of a single thing that could have changed the situation. i was all out of ideas. and i was tired in body, mind and spirit.
okay, i'm off to drown my sorrows in shitty tv land.

MsLittlePea said...

I guess I'm a Why person myself. Can't help it. You're right though.

g said...

You're right. Although sometimes the "Why" person really wants to know - or really wants to explain (not make excuses). Learning to live with one another is HARD.

Susan Carrier said...

Even when not used in this inflammatory manner, the "why" questions are the toughest. And, yet, they are the ones that concern people the most. "Why did your daughter self destruct?" "Why did you get cancer?" I'm sorry, but I do not know the answers to these questions.

soupisnotafingerfood said...

So flippin' true. Repeat after me: "It is what it is. Now, what are we gonna do about it?"

Or, put another way, you can't control what goes on around you or what happens to you, but you CAN control how you react to it.

Suzanne said...

I am so guilty as charged. Like meno, I will try really hard to remember not to do this.

Incognito Mom said...

I bow before the wisdom of your words. Now let's hope I can remember this sage advice the next time "why" wants to spout forth from my lips.

whall said...

My other favorite "unanswerable question" is ...

"what are you doing?"

This is the question men frequently hear. They might hear it while driving and taking an exit. The wife says "what are you doing" and there are about 7 million answers to this question, but there's no way to know what specifically she's asking about - which exit, whether the turn signal is blinking at the right rate, the CD you just put in, the resume you submitted 3 months ago, whatever.

Sister Wolf said...

I love you, even if I didn't get one of your fucking awards. xoxox

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