Was it a good idea to ask that question? Well, it depends on the purpose of asking the question. The best questions create new ideas by helping you and other people better understand a subject. Sometimes questions are necessary to gain information, maybe to help us understand another person's perspective. But there is a class of questions that shouldn't be asked; these questions don't help improve the situation but instead express power and control. These types of questions can be toxic and hurtful. To understand the difference, we need to understand what it feels like to be questioned. In essence, we need to develop empathy for those that are being asked.
I am a highly analytical person. For a significant part of my life, I didn't understand that questions could be hurtful. Often my questions were intended to demonstrate my intellect, driven by my perception of self-worth. However, when I understood the impact that my questions could have on other people, that it could make them feel less than, or it could make them question themselves, I had to take a step back and look at myself.
Not everyone feels comfortable answering questions. Questions are a means of asking a person to open up. In essence, they cause the person being asked to display something that is not readily available. It is asking them to bring something out of themselves that they haven't volunteered. In essence, you are asking someone else to be vulnerable with you. You are asking them to be honest and to let you see what is either in their minds or in their hearts.
Sometimes people don't know the answer. When people don't know the answer and are pressed with questions, we force them to say I don't know. What happens when admitting that someone doesn't know something would embarrass them in front of other people. Maybe admitting they don't know would cause them to question their abilities or damage their confidence. Is it worth it to ask those types of questions?
Questions can make people feel attacked. It might not be your intention to attack them, but your questions may unintentionally be calling them a liar. Sometimes our questions demand proof from another person, especially when new ideas are introduced. By asking for evidence, you are saying that their words are not enough and that you don't trust what they are saying. Going a step further, who permitted us to ask those types of questions? Most conversations aren't shark tank or a deposition. I am not implying that you believe everything you hear, but instead, I highlight the unintended consequences of certain types of questioning.
In other instances, questions can cause people to be in the awkward position of avoiding because the information requested was inappropriate. People come from different cultures, with different norms. Certain types of information are private, and when asked to divulge that information, a person can be both offended or embarrassed depending on the setting. For example, asking whether someone is dating could seem benign, but it could also imply sexuality, relationship history, or pressure from family to get married. Again, this doesn't mean you shouldn't ask questions, but you should be mindful of the setting and the person.
It is easy to dismiss the negative impact of questions. We could say that it is the other person's fault for being so easily offended, or "I don't have a problem answering these questions, so neither should they." Or perhaps "people should develop a thicker skin." That would be the easy way out. The truth is that when we aren't mindful of the impact of our questions, we damage relationships and place ourselves into boxes. Some people may avoid us because they don't want to deal with our questions, while others won't be vulnerable because they dislike our intrusions.
We don't know the people or experiences we are missing out on due to the carelessness of our questions. Being mindful when we ask questions demonstrates a level of respect and care for the impact of our words. Not only does this create a more empathic world, but it also expands our lives. It is a way of inviting new people and new ideas into the world. It is also a way of making other people feel safe and accepted, which is critical for our relationships, including parenting, spouses, and friends. This leads to a fuller and richer life.